Jayson Heyward hit a slow chopper to rookie second baseman Yairo Muñoz, as it looked like John Gant would get out of a jam with a man on first and third with two outs in the fifth inning.
Muñoz, who made an incredible diving, sliding stop just two batters before, bobbled the ball and allowed Anthony Rizzo to score from third, putting the Cubs up 3-2. They wouldn’t need the extra two runs that came in on a Javier Baez double the next at bat, as Chicago avoided getting swept with a 5-2 victory Sunday night.
“It shows what we already knew that we can compete with anybody,” interim manager Mike Shildt said. “We ultimately compete against ourselves. We set our bar against how we play. It’s a good barometer playing a team we’re chasing. Go 4-4 — not what we’d like. Just won the series, so we’re encouraged by that.”
Things were looking solid for the Cardinals after the first four frames of baseball, though. Marcell Ozuna homered in the first inning for the second time in as many days and Gant was dealing. Not to mention the St. Louis lineup had been hot as of late.
That wasn’t the case Sunday.
Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks set down 17 straight Cardinal hitters after a one-out Muñoz double in the second inning. Hendricks set down eight Cardinals on strikes, including a stretch of four in a row, in seven innings of work. His sinker-slider combination stifled the St. Louis bats all night long.
Matt Carpenter’s single to right field with one out in the eighth inning was the only St. Louis hit after Muñoz’s in the second, and created the lone chance for the Cardinals to put some pressure on the Cubs late in the ball game.
Carpenter’s base knock brought up Yadier Molina with an out and a man on first and third. Molina did his job by hitting a deep fly ball to right field, there’s one problem with that, though: Gold-Glover Jason Heyward plays there.
Third base coach Jose Oquendo didn’t want to take a chance of having Muñoz tag-up on the play and get thrown out at home to end the inning, but it would have paid off as Heyward’s throw sailed wide right of catcher Willson Contreras.
Paul DeJong came up next as the tying run. He worked a 2-0 count, only to strike out on a fastball out of the zone away.
The Cardinals won’t be able to continue playing like this offensively, as they host one of the best-hitting teams in the Majors in the Colorado Rockies (57-47). They’ve won eight of their last ten and are making a strong push for first place in the NL West.
Carlos Martínez (6-6, 3.39 ERA) takes the bump against Tyler Anderson (6-3, 3.57 ERA) at 7:10 p.m. Monday at Busch Stadium in game one of a three-game series.
Jack Parodi covers the St. Louis Cardinals for 590 The Fan and you can find him on Twitter @jack_parodi.