ST. LOUIS - They always say the sign of a really good team is taking advantage of the opponent's mistakes.
The St. Louis Cardinals have done that for decades, but Saturday, it was the Cubs flipping the script for a 6-3 victory in Game 2 of the National League Division Series to even the series at one game apiece.
The Cubs scored five unearned runs in the second inning, capitalizing on Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia's throwing error. Without getting the ball out of the infield, the Cubs scored on three straight at-bats, coming on bunts from Kyle Hendricks and Addison Russell before Dexter Fowler's infield hit.
The Cubs couldn't push across any runs against John Lackey and the Cardinals bullpen in Game 1, so Joe Maddon got creative with his pitcher at the plate.
"Any way we could score any runs, obviously, especially in this ballpark," Maddon said. "They're such a good ballclub. We've talked about it before, whenever you have a chance to score, you have to take advantage of that opportunity and we did today."
Maddon compared the back-to-back squeeze bunts to the Green Bay Packers' offensive line in his childhood, a well-oiled machine that ran a sweep play all the time. Even though defenses knew it was coming, the Packers still executed and nobody could stop it.
"I'm just saying, when it comes to [the squeeze play]," Maddon said, "even if the other team knows you may be doing it, if you do it properly, you could still do it. But everything has to be aligned properly."
Jorge Soler followed all the bunting with the big blow — a two-out, two-run shot to dead center field.
Just like that, the air was sapped out of the Cardinals, who had jumped out to an early lead again in Game 2 on Matt Carpenter's leadoff homer.
Hendricks pitched well after that Carpenter longball, setting down 14 of the next 15 batters before surrendering back-to-back homers to Kolten Wong and pinch-hitter Randal Grichuk in the fifth inning.
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Travis Wood came on in relief and immediately shut the door, allowing just one hit in 2.1 innings of work. Trevor Cahill bridged the gap in the eighth inning with a dominant shutdown frame, striking out two batters.
Hector Rondon closed things out in the ninth, allowing just an infield hit.
"The bullpen was outstanding," Wood said. "Kyle kind of paved the way. He got into a little bit of trouble, but he was able to get us to the fifth and a couple of solo homers.
"I was fortunate enough to come in and be able to get us two-and-a-third and then Cahill came in and did outstanding and Ronnie closed the door. You can't ask for much more."
The Cubs and Cardinals return to Wrigley Field for the next two games in this series, beginning Monday evening with Jake Arrieta vs. Michael Wacha.
No matter what happens from here, Maddon loves the experience the Cubs' young players are getting, being thrown into the fire.
"I've been talking about winning a wild-card game and maybe two out of three right now," Maddon said, "and who knows where this is going to take us, but the point is, down the road, the fact that these guys are getting this kind of experience or handling it in this way matters.
"So that's my takeaway from all this."