Game Report: Cubs 6, Cardinals 4

By Rob Rains

Yadier Molina and Mike Matheny, combined, had caught 2,869 games in the major leagues before Thursday but neither ever saw a play like the one that happened in the seventh inning against the Cubs at Busch Stadium.

“That play changed everything,” Molina said. “If we could get that first out, everything changes.”

The Cardinals led 4-2 behind a solid start from Lance Lynn when Brett Cecil relieved to start the seventh and Matt Szczur led off for the Cubs as a pinch-hitter.

On an 0-2 pitch, he swung for strike three, only the baseball got hung up in Molina’s chest protector. He could not locate the ball, and Szczur reached first safely. A walk to Jon Jay on a 3-2 pitch brought Kyle Schwarber to the plate, and he unloaded on the first pitch for a three-run homer that wiped out the lead and sent the Cubs to the win.

“The ball stuck in my chest, I don’t know how,” Molina said. “It was the first time in 13 years.”

Matheny, as either a catcher or manager, said he had never seen that happen before either.

Molina said if the ball had dropped by his feet after he blocked it, he would have easily thrown Szczur out at first.

“It put extra guys on base,” Matheny said. “We had a potential double play (in the first) against us and we turned that into runs. It works both ways. A four-run seventh is going to hurt you. We were in a good place, but it can turn in a hurry.”

The home run put the Cubs in front 5-4. Cecil also gave up a walk and a single, failing to record an out, before he was pulled from the game. The Cubs added another run before Miguel Socolovich could get out of the inning.

Cecil left the stadium without speaking to reporters.

Here is how the game broke down:

At the plate: The botched double play in the first, when the Cardinals challenged an out call and saw the ruling reversed, led to the three-run inning. A run scored on the error on Ben Zobrist, and Matt Adams and Randal Grichuk followed with RBI singles. … The Cardinals had only two hits from the second through the eighth, a single by Dexter Fowler in the second and a double by Diaz in the fifth. Diaz later scored on a sacrifice fly by Molina. … The Cardinals got two runners on base in the eighth on a walk and an error but Grichuk and Jedd Gyorko struck out to end the inning . … Kolten Wong led off the ninth with a double, but Wade Davis retired Stephen Piscotty, Fowler and Diaz to leave him stranded.

On the mound:
Lance Lynn made his first major-league appearance in 544 days, since a relief inning in game two of the 2015 Division Series against the Cubs. He allowed only a single to John Lackey through the first four innings before giving up three singles and a run in the fifth. He left with one out in the sixth with a runner on base, Anthony Rizzo, who had doubled, who later scored after Matt Bowman relieved. “It’s one to build off going forward,” Lynn said. “Everything felt good.”… Socolovich allowed just one hit in two innings. … Cecil’s walk to Bryant was the only time the reigning MVP got on base in the three-game series. He was 0-for-13 with six strikeouts.

Key stat: Cardinal relievers allowed only seven three-run homers all of last season. Only twice did the Cardinals surrender a home run that wiped out a lead in the sixth inning or later at home. It has now happened twice in the first three games of this season after Seung Hwan Oh allowed a three-run blast to Willson Contreras on Sunday night.

Worth noting: Lackey loves pitching at Busch. He had not allowed three runs in an inning at the stadium since April 27, 2015, when he was with the Cardinals and gave up three in the seventh against the Phillies. He had pitched 121 innings at Busch since then before giving up the three first-inning runs on Thursday. … Tyler Lyons left Thursday to head to New Orleans, where he will start for the Triple A Memphis Redbirds on Friday night as he begins a rehab assignment. … Trevor Rosenthal pitched another bullpen session before the game. He said he will know more about the next step in his recovery from a lat muscle strain in the next couple of days. Matheny said it is possible he may not need to go out on a rehab assignment.

Looking ahead:
The Reds come to town for three weekend games, beginning with a pitching matchup of Mike Leake against Amir Garrett on Friday night. Garrett will be making his major-league debut. Michael Wacha will pitch on Saturday, Carlos Martinez on Sunda.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains