Game Report: Cubs 5, Cardinals 1

By Rob Rains

When the Cubs made their run to the World Championship last October, Paul DeJong watched almost every game on television after his own day games in the Arizona Fall League.

He had a closer view on Wednesday night as the Cubs celebrated their second consecutive NL Central Division title after their win at Busch Stadium.

DeJong was on second base when the final out was made, and he did make it a point to watch the celebration in the middle of the infield as he made his way to the dugout.

Most of the Cardinals did not linger. Manager Mike Matheny has made it a point to stay in the dugout for past celebrations after a Cardinals loss, but this was different he said, which is why he turned and walked down the tunnel as soon as Leonys Martin caught Randal Grichuk’s fly to center for the final out.

“I didn’t watch,” Matheny said. “Usually when I watch we don’t have any more games to play. We’re getting ready for tomorrow. When I watch in the playoffs it’s because our season was over. Our season is not over.”

The loss did not mathematically eliminate the Cardinals from catching the Rockies for the second wild-card spot, but it ensured that it can’t happen without an extra game.

The Rockies won earlier on Wednesday and now lead the Cardinals by 3 ½ games. They have three games left, and the Cardinals four, so the reality is one more loss by the Cardinals or one win this weekend by the Rockies will keep the Cardinals home in October for the second consecutive year.

If the Cardinals win all four of their remaining games and the Rockies are swept by the Dodgers, there would be a one-game tiebreaker on Monday at Busch Stadium.

For six innings Wednesday night, it looked as if the Cardinals might keep the Cubs’ champagne on ice for another day, but they erupted for five runs in the seventh off Michael Wacha, who had been dominating for the first six innings. The big blow was a three-run homer by Addison Russell.

Wacha didn’t have to watch the Cubs celebrating to react to it.

“It sucks,” he said. “You never want to see guys celebrating on your home field. It’s not a good feeling.”

The Cardinals have won only two of their last 12 games against the Cubs.

“They just keep beating us,” DeJong said. “They get the hits and we don’t. I don’t know what else to say. They’re the defending champs. It’s going to be tough to dethrone them.”

Here is how the game broke down:

At the plate: The Cardinals gave Wacha a 1-0 lead in the second on a walk to Jedd Gyorko and singles by Jose Martinez, back in the lineup, and DeJong but they only had one more baserunner, when Tommy Pham walked in the third, until the eighth inning … Singles by Grichuk and pinch-hitter Luke Voit and a walk to Pham loaded the bases with two outs with Dexter Fowle coming to the plate as the tying run, but there was no magical moment against his former team as he flew out to right to end the inning … DeJong doubled with two outs in the ninth but was stranded as the game ended.

On the mound: For the first six innings, Wacha allowed only a pair of singles to Jon Jay and a hit batter, Anthony Rizzo, while striking out eight … In the seventh, however, singles by Rizzo and Ben Zobrist preceded Russell’s homer. Javier Baez and Jason Heyward followed with consecutive doubles, and a pinch-hit double by Tommy LaStella off reliever Matt Bowman capped the inning.

Key stat:
After going 2-of-19 against Wacha in the first six innings, the Cubs reeled off five consecutive hits in the seventh during their third time through the batting order, an issue which has plagued Wacha all season.

Worth noting: The only other visiting team to celebrate at Busch 3 was the Dodgers in 2009 after sweeping the Cardinals in the Division Series … The Cardinals on Wednesday announced the promotion of Moises Rodriguez to assistant general manager. He had been directing the team’s international operations and fills the position which opened up when Michael Girsch was promoted to general manager in July. Rodriguez will continue to have a big role in international free agency but Girsch said the team will appoint a new international director in the near future … With Martinez able to play, Matt Carpenter shifted to second base … Yadier Molina will go through the concussion protocol tests on Thursday at which point a decision will be made about when or if he can play this weekend.

Looking ahead: Lance Lynn will make what could be his final start for the Cardinals on Thursday night while Kyle Hendricks is scheduled to start for the Cubs. The game will begin at 6:15 p.m.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains