Surging Cubs widen lead over Cardinals
CHICAGO - If there were any lingering worries about Kyle Hendricks’ pitching proficiency following a recent disabled list stay, they were convincingly put to rest on Saturday.
The Chicago Cubs right-hander allowed one run on six hits and carried a shutout into the eighth inning as he presided over a 4-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
“He was really good, everything was working for him,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. “(He had) the curveball when he wanted it, the fastball was the best fastball he’s had all year. He’s definitely trending. He’s in good shape going into his next start and his confidence could not be higher.”
Hendricks (7-5) struck out five and walked one in his third victory since coming off the disabled list on Aug. 26.
Cubs reliever Wade Davis faced four batters in a scoreless ninth for his 30th save in 30 opportunities.
Albert Almora Jr. provided timely offensive support, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Anthony Rizzo added two hits while Dexter Fowler topped St. Louis with a pair.
The victory was the Cubs’ fifth straight and second in a row over the Cardinals (77-71). Chicago (82-66) opened a five-game lead over third-place St. Louis in the National League Central and is now a season-high 16 games over .500
Cardinals starter Michael Wacha (12-8) took the loss after working 5 2/3 innings. He allowed three runs on six hits, walked five and struck out seven while throwing 101 pitches.
Wacha left with runners at first and second and was replaced by right-hander John Brebbia, who struck out Kris Bryant to end the inning.
“I felt like I was filling up the strike zone (early) and putting it where I wanted, and guys were playing great defense behind me,” said Wacha. “I just got in trouble walking a couple of guys, going deep in counts and then giving up the hits with guys in scoring position.”
The Cardinals threatened in the third inning with Stephen Piscotty on third and Greg Garcia on second after Wacha grounded into a fielder’s choice.
Hendricks then walked Matt Carpenter to load the bases with one out for Tommy Pham, who grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Almora broke the scoreless tie with one out in the fourth with a single to center that brought home Rizzo from second while Willson Contreras sprinted toward third.
Ian Happ followed with an RBI single to right that scored Contreras for a 2-0 lead.
Chicago made it 3-0 with two out in the fifth when Almora doubled off the left-field wall to drive in Rizzo from second and push Contreras to third.
Wacha received a visit from Cardinals pitching coach Derek Lilliquist but he remained in the game and struck out Happ to close the frame.
Hendricks lost his shutout with two out in the eighth as Carpenter’s solo homer to left cut the gap to 3-1. That was also his last batter as Cubs manager Joe Maddon brought in Carl Edwards Jr. to close the inning.
Addison Russell made a dramatic return from the disabled list to lead off the eighth. He slugged his first career pinch-hit home run to left field for a 4-1 lead.
“We just wanted to get him an at-bat,” said Maddon. “And all of a sudden the ball’s in the seats.”
Following Sunday’s series finale at Wrigley Field, the Cubs and Cardinals will meet four more times in a series at Busch Stadium from Sept. 25-28.
“We know we’ve got a lot of games left with the guys in front of us, so it’s up to us to go out there and win those games,” Wacha said.
NOTES: St. Louis dropped to 1-7 for the season in Chicago with Saturday’s loss. They are 4-10 this season against the Cubs with five head-to-head regular season games to play. ... LF Tommy Pham is only the sixth Cardinal to ever have a 20-homer-20 stolen base season. The last was Reggie Sanders in 2004. Pham is the only NL player so far this season in 2017. ... The Cardinals send RHP Lance Lynn (11-7. 3.01 ERA) in his team-leading 31st start against Cubs LHP Jose Quintana (6-3, 3.88 ERA) in Sunday’s series finale. ... Cubs C Willson Contreras received a two-game suspension and undisclosed fine for “inappropriate actions” in the fifth inning of Friday’s game against the Cardinals while RHP John Lackey was fined an undisclosed amount after both were ejected. ... SS Addison Russell was activated off the 10-day disabled list on Saturday and was available, but not in the starting lineup.