Game Report: Cubs 8, Cardinals 2

Trying to protect a lead at Wrigley Field has been a difficult assignment for the Cardinals this season, and that turned out to be the case again on Friday in the opener of what could be a make-or-break series for their playoff hopes.

The Cardinals were playing their seventh game this season in Chicago, and in all seven they had a lead - but for the sixth time, the Cubs rallied to win the game.

Friday’s comeback came in a seven-run sixth inning after a blown strike three call by home plate umpire Jordan Baker followed by an RBI single by Carlos Martinez gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead in the fifth. That prompted a meltdown by John Lackey and Willson Contreras, both of whom were ejected.

Martinez’s meltdown came in the sixth, when his inability to field a groundball opened the door for the Cubs’ big inning.

The loss dropped the Cardinals four games behind the Cubs in the NL Central with 15 games left in the regular season.

Here is how the game broke down:

At the plate: Tommy Pham gave the Cardinals an early lead with his 21st homer of the year with one out in the first but that was their only hit until Stephen Piscotty singled in the fifth … With the bases loaded, Martinez appeared to take a third strike but it was called a ball, and Martinez then delivered an RBI single on the next pitch … The Cardinals loaded the bases with two outs in the eigth before Carson Kellly’s inning-ending fly to center.

On the mound: Martinez retired the first 10 batters he faced before Kris Bryant homered in the fourth to tie the game 1-1 … Bryant led off with the sixth with a single and the Cubs sent 11 hitters to the plate, knocking out Martinez, who was charged with seven earned runs. He left with the bases loaded after failing to get an out on a comebacker hit by Javier Baez. His throw to the plate to try to get a force out was dropped by Yadier Molina … All three runners Martinez left on base came around to score after Matt Bowan relieved … The seven earned runs tied the career high for Martinez, with the other seven-run game also coming against the Cubs on May 4, 2015 … It was the fifth time this season the Cardinals allowed at least seven runs in an inning … Sandy Alcantara struck out the side in the ninth.

Key stat: The seven-run sixth was the biggest inning for the Cubs against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field since they also scored seven runs in the second inning on July 20, 2004, a game the Cardinals actually won 11-8.

Worth noting: Kolten Wong had to leave the game in the fifth inning because of more issues with his back, which has kept him out of several recent games … Pham’s homer was only the second by a current Cardinal in 118 career at-bats against Lackey. The other was hit by Dexter Fowler on June 2 … Bryant’s homer was his first career extra-base hit in 24 at-bats against Martinez … Pop Warner coached first base for the Cardinals as Oli Marmol remained in St. Louis, where his wife Amber gave birth to the couple’s first child, daughter Riley, on Friday.

Looking ahead: Michael Wacha will get the start in the second game of the series, set for 3:05 p.m. on Saturday. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs.


Audio: Rob Rains and Frank Cusumano on 590 Friday