Thursday’s Game Report: Cardinals 7, Cubs 2
By Rob Rains
Jordan Walker is going to have happy memories of his first career game at Wrigley Field.
Walker hit a two-run homer in a four-run fourth inning that helped the Cardinals extend their winning streak to six games in a row on Thursday night with the victory over the Cubs.
Walker became part of a select group of Cardinals age 21 or younger to hit a home run at Wrigley, the first to do so since Albert Pujols in 2001. Also in that club are Garry Templeton, Keith Hernandez, Ken Reitz, Ted Simmons and Curt Flood, since 1958.
Walker also became only the second Cardinals rookie in history to hit a home run in his first game at Wrigley, joining Ken Boyer, who did it in his major-league debut in 1955.
The four-run fourth carried Steven Matz to his first win of the season, the ninth win for the Cardinals in their last 11 games.
Here is how Thursday night’s game broke down:
At the plate: After scoring an unearned run in the first inning, the Cardinals jumped on Marcus Stroman in the fourth. Tyler O’Neill, in his first game since May 4, reached on a bloop double and then scored on Walker’s ninth home run of the season, which came on an 0-2 pitch … After singles from Lars Nootbaar and Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado delivered a two-run double … Paul DeJong added a two-run homer in the fifth, the 15th of his career at Wrigley, to increase the lead to 7-1 … In addition to his bloop double O’Neill drew a pair of walks … Walker has singled in his 2-of-4 night … The Cardinals are now 6-1 since the All-Star break and have scored a total of 46 runs in those seven games, an average of 6.57 runs per game.
On the mound: Matz had been 0-7 this season in 12 starts and eight relief appearances. He worked five innings, allowing just one run on three hits, walking one and striking out six … The second Cubs run scored in the seventh off Kyle Leahy, but JoJo Romero avoided further damage by getting out of a bases-loaded jam to end the inning.
Key stat: Thursday night’s game bega a stretch of 29 games for the Cardinals out of their next 41 games that will be against teams who currently have a sub-.500 record. Eight of those games are against the Cubs, all in the next 11 days.
Worth noting: To make room for O’Neill on the roster, the Cardinals designated reliever Ryan Tepera for assignment. Tepera had just signed with the Cardinals as a free agent on Monday and pitched in two of the three games against the Marlins … The move leaves the Cardinals with only 12 pitchers … Brendan Donovan had a setback in his throwing program and is going to continue to be limited to DH duties for a while longer … The Cardinals signed two minor-league free agent pitchers on Thursday and assigned them to Memphis, Casey Lawrence and Jacob Barnes. Kodi Whitley was given his unconditional release … Drew VerHagen began a rehab assignment with Springfield on Thursday night and allowed one run in his one inning of work.
Looking ahead: Jack Flaherty will get the start on Friday in the second game of the series. The rest of the series will all be 1:20 p.m. games. Friday’s game will be broadcast exclusively on Apple TV.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains