Suddenly, the ninth inning is when the Cubs are at their best.
They made their third late rally in the past five games Wednesday in St. Louis, tying the score on a two-out, RBI double by pinch hitter Eric Sogard.
The 10th inning didn’t work as well, though, and the Cubs suffered a 3-2 loss. The Cubs botched a first and third, nobody out situation in the top of the inning, then Yadier Molina ended the game with a ground-rule double off Craig Kimbrel.
The ninth inning was a strange one, as St. Louis recorded two outs, then hit Nico Hoerner before Sogard delivered the tying hit. Two more Cubs hitters were hit by pitches to load the bases before Anthony Rizzo grounded out.
This was a game of challenging decisions and neither side excelled at making a choice that paid off.
For starters, Rizzo made a strange baserunning decision in the top of the 10th inning. He was the automatic runner at second base and had no chance to score when Javy Baez rocketed a single to right.
With runners on first and third, nobody out, Ian Happ sent an easy double-play ball to short. Rizzo could have taken off from third base and forced the Cardinals to either throw him out at the plate or accept the go-ahead run scoring as they turned the double play.
Instead, Rizzo waited until Paul DeJong stepped on second base for the force out to make his break and got caught in a rundown. So it was a double play after all and the inning ended on a fly out by Robinson Chirinos.
“I’ve got to stay out of the double play there and I didn’t,” Rizzo said after the game. “It’s on me. It was up the middle and I froze and I should have just went right away to stay out of the double play. And I didn’t, I messed up. It’s a bad feeling.”
An earlier decision that backfired for the Cubs was letting pitcher Kyle Hendricks bat for himself in the seventh inning with two outs, a runner on second an the Cubs leading 1-0. Hendricks struck out, then gave up the lead in the bottom of the inning.
Hendricks had won 10 straight decisions, dating back to May 9, and threw 6 scoreless innings Wednesday. But in the seventh, DeJong led off with a short bouncer in front of the plate that Willson Contreras threw into right field.
One out later. Harrison Bader’s double tied the score and Hendricks gave way to Andrew Chafin, who allowed an RBI double to Dylan Carlson as St. Louis went ahead 2-1.
Cubs hitters had just 6 hits through eight innings, but those included 3 doubles and a triple, so they missed some opportunities.
The Cubs got on the board in the third inning with a Hoerner single and Rafael Ortega triple. Ortega was later thrown out at the plate on a failed double steal. A second Cubs player was erased at the plate in the sixth when Contreras was erased on Javy Baez’s slow bouncer to third.
Kris Bryant was not in the starting lineup for this game. Manager David Ross updated Bryant’s status before the game.
“In my mind, he’ll be available off the bench today and be in there tomorrow,” Ross told reporters in St. Louis.
Matt Duffy joined the team in St. Louis. He’s eligible to come off the 60-day injured list Thursday and it sounds like that will happen.
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