With the season on the line, the St. Louis Cardinals turned back to John Lackey, who had dominated the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the series. This Cubs team though would not be denied, though, powering their way to a 6-4 series-clinching win.
The game started perfectly for the Cardinals. Matt Carpenter led off with a single, and Stephen Piscotty followed with yet another long ball. Four pitches in, and the Cards were up 2-0. Then the Cubs started doing what they do best: hit.
In the second, Jason Hammel brought in a run with an RBI single, before Javier Baez went opposite field for a three-run bomb to put the Cubs in front. After three innings, the Cardinals had to pull their starter, and in a desperation move brought in their best arm in Adam Wainwright.
Waino shut down the Cubs, and allowed Tony Cruz and Brandon Moss to come through with RBI hits and pull the game even after the top of the sixth. Perhaps the forgotten play of the sequence was Jorge Soler cutting down Cruz at the plate to keep the game tied. All it took was three batters for the Cubs to take the lead back, as Anthony Rizzo drilled an 0-2 pitch out of the yard to give the Cubs a 5-4 lead. The following inning, Kyle Schwarber launched a meteorite over the Wrigley Field scoreboard to put the Cubs up two and effectively drain any life out of the Cardinals. Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon shut the door in the eighth and ninth to send the Cubs to the NLCS for the first time since 2003.
For the Cubs, they’ll take a few days off and watch the Mets-Dodgers series to figure out who they’ll be facing in the NLCS. Either way, the Cubs will start the series on the road, and everyone knows who will get the ball in Game 1. The series will start Saturday in either Los Angeles or in New York. The Cardinals head home the earliest into the playoffs in five years. Injuries played a major factor, and the pitching fell apart in the series without Carlos Martinez and a healthy Wainwright. The Cards will take a look and re-evaluate this offseason. Both Jason Heyward and and Lackey are free agents, and it’s safe to say the Redbirds may be looking into bullpen support as well.