8:05 PM EST, MLB Network – Money Line: Chicago -145, Run Line: 8
Bitter division rivals meet at Wrigley Field, as the Chicago Cubs look to draw even with the St. Louis Cardinals in the second encounter of their current three-game series. It was the Cardinals (36-33, 2nd in NL Central) who drew first blood on Monday Night by virtue of a 3-2 victory, which more importantly snapped a dismal five-game losing streak, their longest of the campaign. Jamie Garcia (5-6, 3.83 ERA) was tabbed for the start and last a solid 6.2 innings, in which he allowed a pair of runs on six hits, while also striking out half a dozen Cubs in the process. Seung-hwan Oh (2-0, 1.70 ERA) and Trevor Rosenthal (13 Saves, 4.70 ERA) finished up, holding the hosts scoreless over the remainder of the night. However, it was All-Star Catcher Yadier Molina who came up with arguably the most pivotal play of the night, throwing Albert Almora Jr. out in an attempt to steal Third Base in the Bottom of the Ninth Inning. With one out left in the game, and Almora on Second thanks to a Double, Rosenthal proceeded to place the outcome of the contest in jeopardy after hitting Chris Coghlan, the pinch-hitter. With Ben Zobrist up next and runners on First and Second, the closer hurled the pitch into the dirt, though was fortunate that Molina was able to recover and catch Almora streaking to Third. And it was a good thing he did, for Zobrist singled, which would have surely tied the game, yet Jason Heyward harmlessly stroked a pop fly to end the affair. Offensively, Brandon Moss (.249 BA, 16 HR, 35 RBI) and Jhonny Peralta (.271 BA, 2 HR, 8 RBI) handled the majority of the load for Mike Matheny’s charges, as each player homered off John Lackey, the former’s coming in the Second while the latter’s occurred in the Third. Taking the mound tonight will be Adam Wainwright (5-4, 4.78 ERA), who has put together quite a resume’ at Wrigley Field throughout his career; the righthander is a lifetime 9-1 with a solid 3.33 ERA in twenty career starts at Wrigley. Against the Cubs in general, he’s 12-7 with a 3.97 ERA. After getting off to a slow start this season, the 34-year old has begun to round back into form after injuries curtailed his 2015 campaign; Wainwright has compiled a 2-1 record with a sterling 2.50 ERA over his previous six starts, with five being of the quality variety. After all, this guy did register twenty victories just two years ago, and Matheny desperately needs him to once more take the reigns of the rotation.
Meanwhile, Monday Night’s loss aside, the Cubs (47-21, 1st in NL Central) continue to dominate not only their division, but have also earned the top mark in the Majors to boot. Joe Maddon’s charges are among the finest in the National League in a number of offensive categories, ranking in the Top-5 in Hits (591, 8th Overall), Doubles (125, 4th Overall), Home Runs (86, 5th Overall), and Slugging Percentage (.431, 4th Overall), while ranking first in both Hits (366) and On Base Percentage (293). However, after earning a three-game sweep of the Pirates, all that offense failed to impress the Cardinals in Monday’s 3-2 loss; despite amassing a total of nine hits throughout the game, the Cubs only came away with a pair of runs despite numerous chances to pull head. Both of their runs came in the Third Inning, as Kris Bryant (.274 BA, 17 HR, 48 RBI) drove Ben Zobrist home courtesy of a Double, followed shortly by Willson Contreras whose single to Centerfield brought Bryant home. Apart from that, the hosts left nine stranded on base, and were only 1-of-5 (.200) with Runners in Scoring Position. Anthony Rizzo (.273, 17 HR, 53 RBI) on the other hand, struggled on the night, going 1-for-3 with a Walk and Strikeout. Veteran Righthander John Lackey (7-3, 2.78 ERA) made the start, and after a chaotic three innings managed to settle down and keep St. Louis largely in check. The 37-year old yielded three runs on seven hits over the course of six innings, yet was responsible for the loss all the same, his first against his former teammates. In many ways it was a return to Earth for Lackey, who had been in fine form of late, permitting a mere three runs in his last four starts combined. A host of Relievers would finish the night, featuring Trevor Cahill, Travis Wood, Justin Grimm, and Clayton Richard, who together kept the home side in striking distance, allowing no runs and just one hit over the final three innings of play. As Maddon and his charges look to get back to their winning ways, Jason Hammel (7-2, 2.26 ERA) will take the mound. The 33-year old Righthander would really like to be the one to right the ship, for after going 5-2 in his first nine starts, he has come up short in each of his last two; Hammel took the loss against Atlanta (5-1) back on June 10th, giving up three runs and eight hits, while earning a No Decision last Wednesday against Washington (5-4) despite an otherwise stellar performance, yielding a single run on five hits with four strikeouts and no walks. Against the Cardinals he is a lifetime 4-3 with 4.60 ERA in nine starts.