Friday’s Game Report: Cubs 8, Cardinals 2

Friday’s Game Report: Cubs 8, Cardinals 2

By Rob Rains

The best thing that happened to the Cardinals on Friday night occurred 850 miles west of St. Louis.

While the Cardinals were losing to the Cubs at Busch Stadium, the fast-charging Brewers finally lost too, which allowed the magic number for the Cardinals to win the NL Central to drop to two, matching the number of games they have left in the regular season.

If the Cardinals can win both the games on Saturday and Sunday over the Cubs, it won’t matter what the Brewers, one game behind the Cardinals, do against the Rockies.

But that if will require the Cardinals to play a lot better than they did on Friday night, when another meltdown by Andrew Miller ignited a seven-run seventh inning that blew the game open for the Cubs.

Miller retired only one of five hitters he faced after entering a 1-1 game, and Ryan Helsley could not bail him out as he gave up a three-run homer, a double and a single before Genesis Cabrera was finally able to get the inning’s third out – on a fly ball caught by Marcell Ozuna about a foot in front of the left field wall.

The loss was the third in a row for the Cardinals, their longest losing streak since they dropped five in a row from Aug. 3-7 in Oakland and Los Angeles.

The loss on Aug. 4, 54 days ago, was the last time both the Cardinals and Brewers lost on the same day.

“Clearly we want to take care of our business, but (the Brewers loss) makes it a little softer,” said manager Mike Shildt.

Here is how the game broke down:

At the plate: Tommy Edman extended his hitting streak to nine games with a 3-of-4 night, and he also walked, and extended his on-base streak to 16 consecutive games. His two singles and double raised his average in September to .358 (34-of-95) … Matt Carpenter also reached base in all four of his plate appearances, with his 14th homer producing the first Cardinals’ run. He also singled, walked and was hit by a pitch … The rest of the Cardinals lineup did not have a hit until Marcell Ozuna singled in the seventh after going a collective 0-of-20 … Two of those outs came when Albert Almora Jr., a late insertion into the Cubs lineup, robbed Yadier Molina of a double in the first inning and a home run in the fourth … Molina finally got a hit in the seventh, driving in the second run for the Cardinals … Dexter Fowler was 0-of-5 and is 1-of-21 in his last four games.

On the mound: Dakota Hudson set a career high with 10 strikeouts through five scoreless innings, allowing only two hits, but five walks pushed his pitch count to 97 and an early end to his evening … Giovanny Gallegos relieved, and Ian Happ hit his first pitch into the right field seats to tie the game … Gallegos was able to get out of the inning without further damage, but Miller and Helsley were not as lucky in the seventh, when the Cubs sent 11 hitters to the plate and matched the biggest inning by an opponent against the Cardinals this season. They also gave up a seven-run inning in Wednesday’s game in Arizona.

Key stat: Fowler, Ozuna, Harrison Bader and Paul DeJong were a combined 2-of-15, with Ozuna getting both hits, singles in the seventh and ninth innings. The combined September average of those four, all key players in the Cardinals’ lineup, fell to .174 (62-of-357).

Worth noting: Kolten Wong took part in the pre-game activities for the Cardinals and estimated he was running at about 70 to 80 percent as he tries to come back from a hamstring injury. “I pushed it pretty good today,” he said. “We’ll see how it recovers tomorrow.” Wong would like to play in at least one of the final two games of the season but admits he is more focused on being ready to play by the start of the playoffs … The report on Michael Wacha was that he has a “mild” shoulder strain and won’t throw for about a week, at which time he will be re-evaluated. That almost certainly means he will not be on the active roster for the Division Series should the Cardinals get there … Research by Tom Orf found that the last Cardinal to hit a home run, steal home and throw out a runner on the bases in the same game before Randy Arozarena did it on Wednesday in Arizona was Jim Edmonds on April 7, 2002 at Houston.

Looking ahead: Adam Wainwright will get the start against Cole Hamels on Saturday night. Wainwright has won all five of his starts in September, the second time in his career he has gone 5-0 in the month. He has never had six wins in a month in his career.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

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