Theoretically, there are no ‘big games’ in April. Tuesday’s game at Wrigley Field, where the temperature was 35 degrees but dropped as the night wore on, felt like a big game.
Maybe it was because the Cardinals were 1-8 last season at The Friendly Confines. After all, if you take out the head-to-head games, the Cardinals had a better record than the Cubs.
Two of the Cardinals’ most criticised players did most of the damage.
Adam Wainwright came out attacking Cubs hitters. He struck out the side in the first, and his sinker showed more life – and velocity – than it had in some time. His trademark curve wasn’t as consistent as we’ve seen, but he was able to change speeds and, without having a chance to look at the data, got more whiffs with his cutter than usual.
Luckily, Chatwood gave them a mulligan an inning later by walking Dexter Fowler and Tommy Pham, bringing up Matt Carpenter. Carpenter slow start and curious reluctance to swing has created angst among Cardinals fans. Not today, though. Carpenter launched a 1-1 fastball over the head of Jason Heyward which scored Fowler. Ozuna followed with an RBI groundout to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.
The most important plate appearance of the game came in the top of the third. After retiring the first two Cubs, Wainwright walked Bryant and Rizzo before hitting Contreras to load the bases. Kyle Schwarber battled Wainwright to a 2-2 count before he looked a curveball for strike three, stranding the bases loaded. It was a huge pitch not just in the game, but in Wainwright’s season, perhaps.
Ultimately, Wainwright gutted through five innings while only allowing one run. In those conditions, against that team, I’ll take it every time.
After two scoreless innings from Dominic Leone and Jordan Hicks (who broke his own record for the fastest pitch of 2018), the offenses added on. DeJong, who struck out four times on the night, launched a 1-2 fastball over the left-field wall. Why Contreras called a fastball in that count, when DeJong was waving at sliders all night, I’ll never know. With the lead now 3-1, Carpenter came up with the bases loaded and two outs, facing LOOGY Brian Duensing. Carpenter laced a two-run single into center, giving him three RBI’s on the night and (hopefully) breaking him out of his slump for good.
Greg Holland struggled again, as the Cubs went walk, homer, walk against him before getting a pop-up. Bud Norris came in and slammed the door, however. He completed the five-out save, striking out three and only allowed one hit. After the signing was mocked in the offseason, Norris has been nothing short of lights out.
Thanks for reading.