Comebacks for the Cubs weren’t enough in an extra inning loss to the Cardinals

From left, Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, pitcher Kyle Hendricks and catcher Willson Contreras talk in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, at Wrigley Field in Chicago. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

CHICAGO – For the beginning of a critical series, you couldn’t have asked for any more drama.

There was the shocking return of an injured player that was announced minutes before first pitch. The visiting starter enjoyed a strong night as his hitters broke through against the home team’s ace. A major rally, featuring another comeback of an injured player, pushed a memorable contest to extra innings.

It was a bit of October in late December, but unfortunately for the Cubs, some inspired returns on their side were not enough to get them a critical victory over the Cardinals.

Matt Carpenter’s 10th inning homer was the last plot twist on a pressure-packed night at Wrigley Field as St. Louis got out with a 5-4 victory to increase their lead in the National League’s Central Division to three games over the hosts. The dramatic return of Anthony Rizzo and a quick appearance by Javier Baez along with a three-run ninth inning rally weren’t enough to pick up a critical win.

Instead, the Cubs are now completely on the outside of the playoffs looking in, having fallen a game behind the Brewers for the National League’s second Wild Card spot. Milwaukee knocked off San Diego at home earlier on Thursday to turn up the pressure on the Cubs for the rest of this critical series.

It began with a surprise return of Rizzo, who was announced as the first baseman and leadoff hitter just minutes before the game. He came through with the biggest highlight for the Cubs offense over the first eight innings – a third inning homer that matched the run St. Louis got in the top half off Kyle Hendricks.

The Cardinals weren’t done getting to Hendricks, who allowed one run in the fifth on a Harrison Bader RBI single then another on a single by Yadier Molina in the sixth. On that hit, Kyle Schwarber bobbled the ball initially, prompting Paul DeJong to come home. The left fielder’s throw was true, but Willson Contreras couldn’t get a handle on it in time to make the tag.

Hendricks exited after that but was charged with the run that came on a Bader double off Brad Wieck to make it 4-1. Those earned runs were the most the pitcher has given up at Wrigley Field in 2019 and the most since he gave up four on August 15, 2018 against the Brewers.

Jack Flaherty made that lead stand up in a strong eight inning performance where he allowed only three hits and the one run on the homer by Rizzo.

But he departed in the ninth and the Cubs got to the St. Louis bullpen, starting with a walk to Nick Castellanos given up by Carlos Martines. Kris Bryant singled after that, and with one out, Ben Zobrist brought Castellanos home with a double to right to make it 4-2.

Javier Baez ran for Zobrist and he went to third when Willson Contreras reached on an infield single in which the throw went home to get Bryant but failed. Andrew Miller took over for Martinez, but he gave up a grounder to Jason Heyward that was deep enough at second to score the run to tie the game.

That euphoric atmosphere at Wrigley Field didn’t last long as Carpenter’s homer off Kimbrel gave the Cardinals the lead back minutes later. Castellanos sent a ball deep to center with two outs in the bottom half off Giovanny Gallegos, but it wasn’t enough to get out.

That put an end to a drama-filled evening where the Cubs took a step back from a possible playoff spot.

 

 

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