Saturday’s Game Report: Cardinals 9, Cubs 8

Saturday’s Game Report: Cardinals 9, Cubs 8

The Cardinals and Cubs have played 985 games at Wrigley Field since it opened 103 years ago, but they might never have played one like what happened on Saturday.

With the Cardinals trying to push the Cubs to the brink of elimination in the NL Central, the game featured six lead changes, a home run after a strikeout was negated because of a balk, two bases loaded walks in the same inning, the winning pitcher throwing just two pitches and two of the most dramatic homers the Cardinals have hit in recent years.

Trailing 8-7 going to the ninth with Craig Kimbrel coming on to pitch for the Cubs, Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong hit his first two pitches for back-to-back home runs that first tied the game and then put the Cardinals ahead. Carlos Martinez survived a leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth, securing the Cardinals’ third consecutive win in the series and fourth consecutive win.

The victory reduced the Cardinals magic number to five for winning their first NL Central title since 2015 and pushed the Cubs to just one loss and one Cardinals win from elimination, which could happen in the series’ conclusion on Sunday.

Only once before in their long history at Wrigley had the Cardinals hit a game-tying homer and a go-ahead homer in the ninth inning. That happened on July 4, 1953, in the first game of a doubleheader when Peanuts Lowrey hit a two-run homer to tie the game and Rip Repulski homered with one out to give the Cardinals the lead in a game they would go on to win 7-3 after a six-run ninth.

Just two innings before the back-to-back blasts from Molina and DeJong, the Cubs had taken an 8-7 lead in an unusual, controversial fashion. After Kyle Schwarber hit a one out double off Giovanny Gallegos, everyone in the ballpark thought Gallegos had struck out pinch-hitter Tony Kemp.

Even Kemp was walking back to the dugout when second base umpire Bill Welke ruled that Gallegos had not stopped during his motion and called a balk. That negated the strikeout. On the next pitch, Kemp homered to give the Cubs their third lead of the game.

That lead, like the others, didn’t last however, thanks to the heroics of Molina and DeJong.

Here is how the game broke down:

At the plate: Marcell Ozuna broke out on an 0-of-18 slump with a two-run homer, on an 0-2 pitch, in the seventh to put the Cardinals in front 7-6 … Paul Goldschmidt drove in his first two runs in Chicago this season with a groundout in the first, following a Tommy Edman triple, and with a sacrifice fly in the third … The Cardinals pulled ahead 5-3 with a three-run fourth, scoring on a pinch-hit single by Rangel Ravelo and a two-run single by Dexter Fowler, both with the bases loaded … Until their ninth inning rally, it looked like a baserunning blunder by Matt Carpenter was going to cost the Cardinals. He hit a double in the seventh, advancing DeJong to third, but overran second base and was tagged out for the second out and DeJong was stranded at third when Harrison Bader flew out … The Cardinals were just 3-of-11 with runners in scoring position and have won the first three games of the series despite going 8-of-36 with a man on second or third.

On the mound: Starter Dakota Hudson walked four consecutive batters in the first inning, two with the bases loaded, as the Cubs took a 3-1 lead … Hudson lasted through the third before leaving for a pinch-hitter. A parade of eight relievers followed; Ian Happ hit a two-run pinch-hit homer off Dominic Leone in the fourth and Nico Hoerner hit a leadoff homer off Ryan Helsley in the sixth that put the Cubs up 6-5 before Kemp’s homer in the seventh off Gallegos … Tyler Webb relieved Gallegos and retired four consecutive batters before John Gant got the final out in the eighth … Martinez, after walking Kris Bryant on a 3-2 pitch to open the ninth, retired the next three batters in order, striking out pinch-hitter Javy Baez to end the game … Gant was credited with the win to move to 11-1 on the season while Martinez, pitching for the fourth consecutive day, earned his 23rd save.

Key stat: The marathon game took 4 hours, 24 minutes and was the longest nine-inning game ever played by the Cardinals and it also was the longest nine-inning game, by two minutes, in the history of Wrigley Field. The previous record for the longest nine-inning game in Cardinals history was 4 hours, 19 minutes, a 14-13 loss at Colorado on April 16, 2000.

Worth noting: The nine Cardinals pitchers combined to throw 168 pitches in the game and the winning pitcher, Gant, threw two of them to retire the only hitter he faced for the final out in the eighth … The pinch-hit homers by Happ and Kemp marked only the second time in the long history between the two rivals that the Cubs hit two pinch-hit homers in a game off the Cardinals. The other time was on July 13, 1997 … The last time the Cardinals used nine pitchers in a nine-inning game was on Sept. 30, 2007 against the Pirates … The Cubs have lost five consecutive games at home for the first time since 2013, before Joe Maddon took over as manager … The Cardinals moved to a season-high 21 games over .500 at 88-67 and are now above .500 on the road at 39-38.

Looking ahead: Miles Mikolas is scheduled to start the series finale on Sunday, although rain is in the forecast. Yu Darvish is the scheduled starter for the Cubs. The Cardinals’ last four-game series sweep in Chicago came in 1921.

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For the latest news and features in St. Louis Sports check out STLSportsPage.com. Rob Rains, Editor.