Despite taking a 6-5 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night, a feeling that the St. Louis Cardinals would rally didn’t die until Jhonny Peralta grounded into a game-ending forceout.
Peralta’s hard smash was momentarily bobbled by Chicago shortstop Starlin Castro, who recovered and flipped to second to force Matt Holliday as the Cardinals stranded two baserunners and saw the end of their eight-game winning streak.
“That’s the great thing about this team,” Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter said. “Everybody was sensing, ‘Here it goes again. We’re going to find a way to win this.’ I’m sure you guys felt the same way, because that’s the way it’s been going.
“But it’s the way it goes sometimes. You can’t win them all.”
The Cardinals, who are a major league-best 20-7, fell to 8-2 on the homestand, which concludes with a game against the Cubs (14-12) at 12:45 p.m. Thursday.
The Cubs led 5-2 in the sixth, but the Cardinals scored a pair of unearned runs against Jon Lester (2-2) to get within 5-4. Jorge Soler’s RBI single made it 6-4 in the eighth, but an RBI single by Pete Kozma against Pedro Strop made it 6-5 in the bottom of the inning.
In the ninth, Peter Bourjos singled to left against closer Hecton Rondon and scampered all the way to third when first baseman Rizzo dived to his right to smother Carpenter’s grounder, then flip to Rondon covering the bag for the out.
“I thought the only chance (Bourjos would be at third) is if it got to the outfield,” Carpenter said. “The guy can fly. He put us in a position to score. It was just good baserunning.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has raved about the difference-maker Bourjos is on the bases and with his defense in center field. Bourjos narrowly missed making a great catch on Bryant’s eighth-inning double.
“It was a great job,” Matheny said of Bourjos’ first-to-third advance. “Right out of the box, as soon as Carp hit that ball, he had his mind made up. ... That’s the kind of speed and that’s the kind of player Peter Bourjos is. He does a great job.”
Rondon fell behind Matt Holliday 3-0, then issued an intentional walk. But Mark Reynolds struck out on a 2-2 slider and Peralta forced Holliday at second.
Reynolds was disappointed with his at-bat.
“I feel as bad as anybody,” he said. “A sac fly would have at least tied the game, but tomorrow’s another day, I guess. We’ve got to get back at them. ... That’s why we play this game every day. You’ve got to have a short memory.”
Reynolds was 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, two of them against Lester.
Lance Lynn (1-3) worked six innings for the Cardinals, allowing five runs (earned) on eight hits. He walked two and struck out six.
Lynn gave up Rizzo’s third-inning homer that put the Cubs ahead 3-1. Peralta’s 447-foot homer against Lester made it 3-2 in the fourth, but Lynn was unable to freeze Chicago in the fifth when Addison Russell doubled and Chris Coghlan walked ahead of Rizzo’s two-run double to right.
“You don’t walk anyone in front of Rizzo. That’s what’s going to happen,” Lynn said.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon considers Rizzo is one of the best hitters in the majors.
“He’s just really good right now,” Maddon said. “I think he’s like one of the top-five best at-bats in all of baseball, if you want to look at it that way. At-bat per at-bat, this guy is engaged in every pitch. Every pitch. He doesn’t give anything away at any time. And he’s one of the few major-league hitters with a legitimate two-strike approach.”