The Cardinals returned the hospitality of their hosts Saturday, hitting a home run in the ninth inning to tie the Cubs and then winning in extra frames.
Carlos Beltran, who is suddenly showing signs of life at the plate after two months of wandering aimlessly, hit a laser beam of a home run just inside the right field foul pole to tie the game. He hit the blast off righty Carlos Marmol although the Cubs seemed to have a lefty ready to go in the bullpen. His homer was his 30th of the season.
I wonder if things might have been different had Chicago manager Dale Sveum not used a paint by numbers management style, refusing any other option than his appointed closer in the ninth. Beltran hits for much more power lefthanded. And the jetstream was blowing out to right all day at Wrigley Field.
The Birds took the lead in the 10th on a rally that started with two outs. Matt Carpenter and Bryan Anderson walked to put two on with two down and bring Jon Jay, who was hitless up to that point, to the plate.
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Jay ripped a ball inside the first base bag and into the right field bullpen for a double. Carpenter scored but the slow-footed Anderson had to stop at third and Jason Motte -- who was unavailable to close Friday afternoon -- came into the game with little margin for error and shut down the Wee Bears by striking out the side to secure the victory.
Starting pitcher Adam Wainwright seemed in command early as he led the Redbirds to a 3-1 lead. But in the sixth inning he gave up four hits and a walk to allow the Cubs to score three times and take a 4-3 lead. He stormed off the field after the bad frame then came back out and managed a quiet seventh before turning things over to the bullpen.
Mitchell Boggs, who worked only 1/3 of an inning, was credited with the win.
On the bright side, the Nationals beat Milwaukee to restore the Cardinals' lead over their closest competitor for the second wildcard spot to 2 1/2 games and the Reds inadvertently did the Birds a favor by beating the Dodgers to knock them three games back.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina left he game in the middle of an at bat after he jumped out of the way of an inside pitch. Initially it was speculated that he strained an oblique. But the Cardinals reported after the game that Molina was suffering from back spasms and that he wanted to stay in the game but manager Mike Matheny forced him out as a precaution against more serious injury.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Beltran, who still looks like he's having problems running, was 2-for-5 in the game with a pair of runs scored and an RBI
Cardinals Play of the Game: Jay's game winning double.
Lowlight: While some dismissed the idea that Wainwright might wear down in his first season back from Tommy John surgery, he's lost all three of his decisions since Aug. 31 and in that span his ERA has gone from 3.63 to 4.02. I hope he can pull it back together down the stretch.