Cardinals remain confident despite 2-1 series deficit


Cardinals remain confident despite 2-1 series deficit

The St. Louis Cardinals don’t seem too concerned about their current predicament, even on the verge of elimination.

The status of their catcher — and heart and soul — is uncertain, the Cubs offense is red hot and Wrigley Field sounds more like a rock concert than a baseball game. But none of the Cardinals wavered late Monday night after an 8-6 loss to the Cubs in Game 3 of the National League Divisional Series.

Veteran John Lackey pitches next for St. Louis, which trails the best-of-five series 2-1. He’ll face the Cubs’ Jason Hammel in Game 4 at 3:37 p.m. on Tuesday.

“I like our odds when our backs are against the wall,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “This is the kind of team that we've had all season long, regardless of what anybody else thinks, regardless of odds, regardless of who we're stacked upagainst.”

[MORE CUBS: Yadier Molina's thumb injury flares up in Cubs-Cardinals]

Don’t mistake their swagger for stupidity — the Cardinals realize how tall a task they face. It’d be hard to ignore the six home runs their pitchers allowed to six different Cubs hitters on Monday night. They’re also uncertain about catcher Yadier Molina, who re-aggravated a thumb injury during a fourth inning at-bat and was lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth.

But they still possess the confidence only a 100-win season in baseball’s toughest division can produce.

“I love us,” said Cardinals right fielder Jason Heyward, who homered and doubled in four at-bats. “We don’t ever stop. Ahead or behind, we don’t ever stop playing the game. We’re going to put this one behind us just like the first game we won and just like we did (Saturday) when we lost.”

They also have experience to lean on.

“It never hurts,” pitcher Adam Wainwright said.

[MORE CUBS: Cardinals Game 4 starter John Lackey: Past experience is irrelevant]

While experiences means squat if they don’t execute on Tuesday, Wainwright thinks it can help Cardinals players tune out the noise. This isn’t the first time the Cardinals have faced adversity. Though their season could end within 18 hours, Wainwright said his teammates don’t feel any panic.

“I don’t feel like we have to play harder than we’ve played all year right now,” Wainwright said. “We’ve been in this situation before. We know we have to come out and play a good ballgame. When you simplify things like we can here — we don’t worry about the situation, the games, up or down, we’re going to come out and execute. And if everybody comes out and executes tomorrow, we’re going to be just fine.”

Matheny liked the way the Cardinals rallied twice in Monday’s loss to keep the Cubs on their toes.

While they didn’t win, the Cardinals scored four runs off Jake Arrieta, the same amount he had allowed combined in his previous nine starts. Heyward’s sixth-inning homer got St. Louis within a run, and Stephen Piscotty’s round-tripper in the ninth made it a two-run game. Matheny expects to see more of the same confidence on Tuesday.

“This team just continues to fight, and that's not something that you lose regardless of where you stand, and I'm excited to watch them come out and compete,” Matheny said. “That's what this team does well and what they've done all season. Tomorrow is the kind of game where they'll come out with a lot of heart ready to do their thing.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers in 1998


Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers 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.

An off-day did nothing to slow down the 1998 National League MVP as Sosa collected his second straight 2-homer game May 27 of that season.

He went deep in the eighth and ninth innings of a Cubs' 10-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field, driving in 3 runs. 

The first homer - off Darrin Winston - was an absolute blast, traveling an estimated 460 feet. The second shot was tame in comparison with only 400 feet as a recorded distance.

In a matter of two games, Sosa raised his season OPS from .930 to .988 and his slugging percentage from .521 to .577 thanks to a pair of 2-homer contests.

Fun fact: Doug Glanville - former Cubs outfielder and current NBC Sports Chicago analyst - was the Phillies leadoff hitter that day in 1998, collecting three hits and scoring a pair of runs.

Yu Darvish back on the DL for Cubs with triceps tendinitis


Yu Darvish back on the DL for Cubs with triceps tendinitis

Yu Darvish now has more trips to the disabled list in a Cubs uniform than wins.

The Cubs place their 31-year-old right-handed pitcher on the DL Saturday evening with right triceps tendinitis. The move is retroactive to May 23, so he may only have to miss one turn through the rotation.

In a corresponding move, Randy Rosario was recalled from Triple-A Iowa to provide Joe Maddon with another arm in the bullpen. Tyler Chatwood will start Sunday in Darvish's place.

Thanks to two off-days on the schedule last week, the Cubs should be fine with their rotation for a little while. Jon Lester could go on regular rest Monday, but the Cubs would need to make a decision for Tuesday given Kyle Hendricks just threw Friday afternoon.

That decision could mean Mike Montgomery moving from the bullpen to the rotation for a spot start, or it could be the promotion of top prospect Adbert Alzolay from Triple-A Iowa.

Either way, this is more bad news for Darvish, who has had a rough go of it since he signed a six-year, $126 million deal with the Cubs in February.

Between issues with the weather, the concern of arm cramps in his debut in Miami, leg cramps in Atlanta, a trip to the disabled list for the flu, trouble making it out of the fifth inning and now triceps tendinitis, it's been a forgettable two months for Darvish.

He is 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and 49 strikeouts in 40 innings with the Cubs.

Over the course of 139 career starts, Darvish is 57-45 with a 3.49 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and has averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings.