Thursday’s Game Report: Cardinals 5, Cubs 4 (10 innings)

Thursday’s Game Report: Cardinals 5, Cubs 4 (10 innings)

It might turn out to be the most important hit of the year for the Cardinals.

Matt Carpenter, who came into the opener of the four-game series between the Cardinals and Cubs on Thursday night at Wrigley Field because of an injury to Kolten Wong, rescued the team from a blown three-run lead in the ninth inning and a potentially devastating loss by blasting a home run off Craig Kimbrel in the 10th inning.

The win dropped the Cardinals’ magic number for clinching the NL Central to seven over the Brewers and six over the Cubs, who fell four games behind the Cardinals with nine games left in the regular season. The Brewers remained three games behind the Cardinals. A loss would have cut the Cardinals’ lead over both teams to two games.

Carpenter’s heroics came after Carlos Martinez could not hold a 4-1 lead he inherited from Jack Flaherty, who dominated the Cubs for eight innings, allowing only a home run to Anthony Rizzo, who made a surprise return to the Cubs lineup.

Carpenter came off the bench in the fifth inning after Wong injured his left hamstring trying to run out a ground ball that ended the Cardinals’ half of the inning. There was no immediate word on how long Wong will be out but he will undergo an MRI on Friday.

After striking out in the seventh, Carpenter came up with one out in the 10th and jumped on the first pitch he saw from Kimbrel, a 95-miles per hour fastball, and sent it over the center field wall for his 13th, and biggest, home run of the season.

Carpenter has been 0-of-7 in his career off Kimbrel, and it was only the second home run the Cardinals had ever hit off Kimbrel in his career, the other coming from Stephen Piscotty in 2015. It was the fourth extra-inning home run for Carpenter in his career.

It was the first win of the season for the Cardinals in Chicago after being swept in two three-game series in May and June.

Here is how the game broke down:

At the plate: The Cardinals had scored only one run in 19 innings, covering three starts, against Kyle Hendricks but produced four runs before knocking him out of the game in the sixth … Tommy Edman led off the second with a single and later scored when Dexter Fowler grounded into a double play, and tripled leading off the fifth and scored on Harrison Bader’s single … Bader also doubled in a run in the sixth, when the Cardinals also scored on an error … Paul Goldschmidt had two doubles off Hendricks, who had a 1.75 ERA this season at Wrigley Field coming into the game.

On the mound: The Cubs rally in the ninth marked the second time this season Martinez has blown a save and cost Flaherty a win after a stellar outing; the other time was a 2-1 loss in Los Angeles on July 12 after seven shutout innings from Flaherty … Flaherty gave up only two hits other than the home run from Rizzo, who is now 9-of-18 off Flaherty with three homers in his career … Flaherty struck out eight and issued only one walk before coming out of the game after throwing a season-high 118 pitches … Martinez was in trouble from his first batter, a leadoff walk, followed by a single, a strikeout, an RBI double and an RBI single … Andrew Miller relieved at that point with runners on second and third and allowed the tying run to score on a ground out … Giovanny Gallegos earned his first save of the year by retiring the Cubs in order in the bottom of the 10th.

Key stat: Carpenter had hit just two homers in his previous 161 plate appearances dating back to June 18. It was the first home run for the Cardinals in extra innings at Wrigley Field since Felipe Lopez homered in the 11th inning on July 25, 2010.

Worth noting: Kimbrel had not lost a game against the Cardinals since April 30, 2011, when he was pitching for the Braves … The two-run homer by Piscotty, which came in a game the Cardinals already were winning 8-3, were the only runs the Cardinals had scored off Kimbrel in his last 17 appearances against them, dating back to 2012 … This is also the first time the Cardinals won a game started by Hendricks since Aug. 13, 2016. The Cubs had won his last 11 starts against the Cardinals, with Hendricks going 8-0 in those games … The Cubs announced that Alec Mills will start Saturday’s game in place of Cole Hamels, who was scratched because of shoulder irritation.

Looking ahead: Michael Wacha will start Friday’s game against Jose Quintana.

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