The St. Louis Cardinals kept on rolling Friday night, winning Game 1 of their NL division series against the Chicago Cubs by a 4-0 score.
John Lackey dominated the action for St. Louis, holding the Cubs hitless through the first five innings. Chicago would mount a mild threat in the sixth, moving Addison Russell to third after his leadoff single. Russell stayed there after Dexter Fowler’s long fly ball was caught at the warning track. That would be the only Cubs baserunner to reach scoring position until the ninth inning.
Lackey had one early run to work with after Matt Holliday singled home Stephen Piscotty in the first inning. He made it stand up, allowing just two hits over his 7 1/3 innings. From there, the Cardinals added three insurance runs on home runs from Thomas Pham and Piscotty in the eighth. Left-hander Kevin Siegrist and closer Trevor Rosenthal applied the finishing touches on the hill, recording the final five outs as the Cardinals protected the home field.
• You can’t say enough about John Lackey’s outing. Mike Matheny looked to his veteran to set the tone in the series and Lackey responded with a strong performance. He wasn’t overpowering by any means. but relentlessly attacked the strike zone and got outs. He finished with five strikeouts and one walk.
• Eleven days ago there was concern Stephen Piscotty had played his final game of the season after his nightmarish collision with Peter Bourjos. He returned before the regular season ended, and contributed on Friday, doubling in the first inning and scoring the Cardinals first run. He then capped the Cardinals scoring with his eighth-inning two-run homer.
• It wouldn’t be a Cardinals postseason without a rookie playing hero. In this case, it was plural. In addition to Piscotty, Thomas Pham came through driving a solo home run in the eighth inning to provide some insurance. Pham’s home run marked the second straight year a Cardinals rookie has homered in his first career postseason at-bat. Randal Grichuk did it against Clayton Kershaw in 2014
• After a shaky first inning, Jon Lester settled in very nicely for the Cubs. He retired 13 straight at one point and allowed three runs over his 7 1/3 innings while striking out nine.
• It was a tough night for several in the Cubs lineup. Anthony Rizzo stood out, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout and a critical inning-ending double play in the seventh inning that spoiled a potential threat.
• As a whole, the Cubs managed just two hits. Aside from Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Kris Bryant, Starlin Castro and Chris Coghlan combined to go 0-for-14 with six strikeouts. It was letdown across the board for the Cubs, so it’s difficult to single out certain players.
The Cubs mounted a handful of mild threats. One that seemed destined to produce a rally came in the seventh inning when Kyle Schwarber bunted to beat the shift, setting up Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. Bryant struck out, and then Rizzo hit into a 3-6 double play that was started perfectly by defensive replacement Mark Reynolds at first base. A key move by manager Mike Matheny, and a bigger play for the Redbirds.
John Lackey’s great outing wasn’t a surprise to those following the Cardinals closely.
• The Cardinals looked like postseason powerhouses again. It’s one game, but coming off a 100-win season there’s reason to look at the Cardinals as the team to beat on the National League side.
• The Cubs offense looked good in Pittsburgh, but struggled here against the veteran Lackey. It’s a group that can run hot and cold, so we’ll be hearing about the importance of a bounce back game on Saturday.
• The Cubs-Cardinals rivalry in the postseason. Friday was just the appetizer for what will be a highly intense series. And that’s just talking about the fans off the field. On the field, we’re expecting a series full of tightly contested games that come down to the final at-bat.
Game 2 comes our way on Saturday at 5:37 p.m. ET from Busch Stadium. The Cubs will look to get even with Kyle Hendricks (8-7, 3.95) on the hill. The Cardinals will counter with left-hander Jaime Garcia (10-6, 2.43). The game will air on TBS.
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