Cardinals fend off Cubs comeback at Wrigley

Cardinals fend off Cubs comeback at Wrigley

The Cubs have been so dominant this season, it seems like they have a comeback in them no matter how far they fall behind.

In their first game at Wrigley Field since the NLDS last season, the St. Louis Cardinals jumped out to a three-run lead off former teammate John Lackey.

But a comeback wasn't in the cards for the Cubs as they fell 3-2 to St. Louis in front of 41,166 fans at Wrigley Field Monday night.

"There's nothing to complain about," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I'll take that game every night, 'cause we'll win a lot of those."

Of course, the Cubs still made things close in the ninth.

Albert Almora Jr. roped a one-out double to center field and pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan was hit in the jersey by Trevor Rosenthal's pitch. But Almora was caught trying to advance to third on a ball in the dirt.

Ben Zobrist followed with a single to right field before Jason Heyward — who starred in St. Louis last season — popped out to shallow center to end the game.

Lackey was the ace for a Cardinals team that won 100 games last season and his former teammates put him to work in the first three innings, plating three runs on six hits and three walks.

The veteran right-hander settled down and managed to grind out three more innings to finish with a quality start (six innings, three runs), but the damage had already been done.

"I thought we played our butts off," Maddon said. "I also believe that's one of John Lackey's better games. The fact that he did not have it all goin' on and for six innings, kept them to three runs. I thought that was outstanding."

Lackey was his typical "country hardball" self after the game, explaining how he got through the mental adjustments after a rough first three innings — "I ain't got no mental problems. I'm gonna get after it regardless." — and offering up a brief synopsis of how he gets by with lesser stuff:

"I got more options nowadays," the 37-year-old said. "I had to go to some secondary options later in the game. But you just keep battling. Keep getting after it.

"Those are the kind of games that make you who you are. It's easy when it's easy. Some guys bow out when it gets a little rough."

The Cubs rallied in the bottom half of the third when Kris Bryant doubled home Ben Zobrist and then rookie sensation Willson Contreras drove in Bryant with a two-out single up the middle.

But that was all the Cubs offense could muster against Jaime Garcia and a pair of Cardinals relievers.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Cubs-Cardinals game without a little extra drama.

In the top of the fifth inning, after Cardinals first baseman Brandon Moss homered and flew out deep to center the first two times up, Lackey plunked him on the elbow pad in what Maddon described as an attempt to go inside on a guy who had been getting good extension on his swing all night.

The Cardinals immediately responded in the bottom of the frame when Garcia hit Bryant high up on the shoulder with two outs and nobody on, prompting warnings for both teams from the umpiring crew.

Late last season, Maddon laid into the Cardinals for their beanball retaliation tactics, but Monday, he was a little more reserved.

"I could understand why the umpire [warned the benches]," was all Maddon said before being pressed on the issue. "It looked kinda suspicious, but I'm not gonna go there. It's up to them.

"I just thought the umpire did what he needed to do or what he thought he had to do in that moment. I had no problem with it."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa hit the 30-homer threshold on June 21, 1998 in only his 71st game of the season. For perspective, the 2018 Cubs leader in homers on June 21 is Javy Baez with 14 and Mike Trout leads all of baseball with only 23.

At this point, Mark McGwire was ahead of Sosa, but the Cubs slugger was pulling closer. McGwire had 33 dingers on June 21 while Ken Griffey Jr. had 28 and Greg Vaughn had 25.

Sosa' June 21 homer came off Tyler Green and was his 5th blast of the series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field that year. But the Cubs lost that series, despite Sosa's efforts.

Fun fact: Sosa drove in 10 runs in the three-game series with the Phillies that summer while the rest of his teammates combined for only 9 RBI.

Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of


Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of

The Cubs have been a different team the last six weeks, looking a lot more like the resilient bunch from 2016 than the sluggish 2017 squad that lacked energy. After some wacky circumstances Monday and a tough loss in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, the Cubs came out and showed what they’re made of in the last two games of the series against the Dodgers, a team that knocked them out of postseason play last fall.

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki sum up the longest short homestand (or shortest long homestand?), updating the status of Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow, the Cubs pitching staff and how the team is rounding into form as the season’s halfway mark approaches.

Check out the entire podcast here: