Game Report: Cardinals 8, Cubs 7

By Rob Rains

After the 3 hour, 46-minute tug-of-war disguised as a baseball game between the Cardinals and Cubs was over Tuesday night at Busch Stadium, what mattered most was this – the champagne remained in storage in the visiting clubhouse, and the Cardinals still had a heartbeat in the playoff race.

There were times when it didn’t seem likely that either of those were going to happen.

After building an 8-3 lead behind their first four-homer game against the Cubs at home in 13 years, the Cardinals had to survive October-esqe drama in the eighth and ninth innings to snap their six-game losing streak against the Cubs.

A three-run homer by Jason Heyward and another homer from Ben Zobrist in the eighth cut the Cardinals’ lead to 8-7 before Juan Nicasio pitched around two walks in the ninth, striking out pinch-hitter Javier Baez to end the game.

The win allowed the Cardinals to stay 2 ½ games behind the Rockies for the second wild-card spot. The Cardinals have five games to play, the Rockies four. The Cubs still need one win or one Milwaukee loss to clinch the NL Central.

The game featured six home runs, three triples, four hit batters, a catcher’s interference call that negated a Cardinals’ double play and 350 pitches.

“We needed everything we had today,” said manager Mike Matheny. “We left it all out there.”

Here is how the game broke down:

At the plate: Matt Carpenter hit the Cardinals’ first homer leading off the bottom of the first off Jake Arrieta. He had been just 2-of-35 versus his former TCU teammate with one homer in his career, including the postseason … The Cardinals added two runs in the first on triples by Dexter Fowler and Randal Grichuk before Tommy Pham hit a two-run homer in the second to increase the lead to 5-1 … Paul DeJong doubled in a run in the fifth, and homers from Jedd Gyorko, his 20th of the year, and Grichuk, his 21st, in the seventh gave the Cardinals what they thought was a comfortable lead with six outs to go … Of the Cardinals’ 10 hits, seven went for extra bases … They were 0-of-9 with runners in scoring position.

On the mound: Carlos Martinez was pulled after 4 1/3 innings, his shortest start since a 3 1/3 inning outing on May 6 of last year. He allowed three runs on only four hits but got himself in trouble with four walks and a hit batter. One of the walks came with the bases loaded, only the second time he had done that in 68 career plate appearances with the bases loaded. He got out of bases loaded, no out jam in the fourth by striking out Zobrist and Kris Bryant and retiring Anthony Rizzo on a groundout … The Cubs’ rally in the eighth began when Tyler Lyons hit Ian Happ and walked Leonys Martin before Heyward hit the first pitch from John Brebbia for his home run. Zobrist’s homer followed two outs later … Nicasio gave up a ground-rule double to Bryant before getting out of the inning, and then allowed two walks in the ninth before the game-ending strikeout on his 31st pitch.

Key stat
: It was the seventh four-homer game of the season for the Cardinals but their first since July 7. It was the first time they hit four homers in a game against the Cubs in St. Louis since July 9, 2004.

Molina update: Yadier Molina said he felt much better on Tuesday, nearly 24 hours after he was hit on the face mask by consecutive foul tips and had to leave the game. He is hopeful he will be able to play again before the end of the season, but that will be controlled by the Cardinals’ doctors and his results on the tests which are part of the concussion protocol. “I've been hit in the head many times but not twice in a row like last night,” Molina said. “Last night was pretty bad. I was in pain; I was confused.”

Worth noting:
Pham had to come out of the game two innings after he was hit by a pitch in the ribs in the sixth. Matheny said he is hopeful Pham will be able to play Wednesday night … Kolten Wong was out of the Cardinals’ lineup after his back tightened up again during his final at-bat on Monday night … Carpenter’s homer was the ninth of his career leading off the bottom of the first inning but was the first time he had done it against the Cubs. The last homer by the Cardinals leading off the bottom of the first against the Cubs was by Fernando Vina in 2001 … Of Martinez’s 92 pitches, only 53 were strikes … The win was the 82nd of the year for the Cardinals, guaranteeing this will be the 10th consecutive year the team will finish above .500.

Looking ahead: Michael Wacha will get the start on Wednesday night while former Cardinal John Lackey will start for the Cubs in the game which begins an hour earlier than normal, 6:08 p.m.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains