Thursday’s Game Report: Cardinals 8, Cubs 3

Thursday’s Game Report: Cardinals 8, Cubs 3

By Rob Rains

Paul Goldschmidt is going to give Cardinals fans another race to watch the rest of the season other than seeing if Albert Pujols can reach 700 career homers.

Goldschmidt hit two home runs and drove in five runs to lead the Cardinals over the Cubs on Thursday at Wrigley Field, putting himself into the lead in two of three Triple Crown categories in the National League and just shy of the league leader in the third.

Already leading the league in batting average, Goldschmidt had three hits to raise his average to .339. His five RBIs increased his season total to 105, moving ahead of Pete Alonso of the Mets (102 before his game on Thursday night). The two homers gave him 33 on the season, one behind league-leader Kyle Schwarber of the Phillies (before his Thursday night game).

No player in the National League has won the Triple Crown since the Cardinals’ Joe Medwick in 1937.

Goldschmidt led the league in homers (36) and RBIs (125) in 2013 when he played for Arizona, but he has never won the batting title.

Goldschmidt and Tommy Edman also turned in the defensive play of the game in the second inning, with Edman making a diving stop and Goldschmidt making a long stretch to catch Edman’s throw while staying on the base to get the inning-ending out, stranding runners on second and third.

The Cardinals picked up a half-game in the standings on the Brewers, who did not play on Thursday. They now lead the NL Central by 6 games, their biggest margin since they had a 6 ½ game lead on Sept. 5, 2015.

Pujols did not play in the game, keeping his home run total at 693. The Cardinals have 37 games left on their schedule.

Here is how the game broke down:

At the plate: Goldschmidt walked and scored a run in the Cardinals’ three-run first inning, then drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single in the fourth before hitting a solo homer in the sixth and a two-run homer in the eighth … In 22 games this month, Goldschmidt has hit .383 with nine homers and 27 RBIs … Corey Dickerson earned a spot in the history books with singles in his first two at-bats, giving him a record 10  consecutive hits, in 10 at-bats, over the last three games. He finally was retired in the fourth … Edman also had three of the Cardinals’ 16 hits and stole his 24th base of the year.

On the mound: Dakota Hudson turned in one of his best starts of the season, going seven innings and allowing just two runs. After allowing the second run in the third, he retired 13 of the next 14 hitters he faced, with the only Cubs baserunner reaching on a two-out walk in the fifth … Packy Naughton allowed three consecutive hits and a run in the eighth before Jordan Hicks relieved and got the final five outs.

Key stat: Goldschmidt did not play on Wednesday and has excelled in games following a day off this season. Counting the two games he missed in Toronto, Goldschmidt has not played in seven games this season and in his next game back in the lineup, he has gone 11-of-24, a .458 average, with six homers and 14 RBIs.

Worth noting: Nolan Arenado left the team before the game to return to St. Louis where his wife was having their first child. He was not placed on the paternity list … Ryan Helsley, who missed the eight-game trip as his wife gave birth to their first child, is expected to rejoin the Cardinals on Friday. He had remained in Oklahoma while his new baby was undergoing tests … Paul DeJong was 0-of-5 on Thursday and finished the roadtrip with 2 hits in 25 at-bats, one of them a grand slam … Tyler O’Neill was 0-of-4 with a sacrifice fly and was 6-of-32 on the trip with one home run and three RBIs … Pujols and Yadier Molina were honored by the Cubs before the game, their last time to be at Wrigley Field in their careers. Molina also did not play in the game.

Looking ahead: Jose Quintana will get the start on Friday night as the Cardinals return home for a weekend series against the Braves. It’s the only three games for the Cardinals against a team with a winning record until Sept. 13.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

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