Playing their first postseason home game since 2008, the Chicago Cubs took control of their NL division series against the St. Louis Cardinals with an 8-6 victory in Game 3. Now just one win stands between Chicago and its first trip to the NLCS since 2003.
The Cubs offense came out swinging on Monday. For the first time in postseason history, six different players from the same team hit home runs as Chicago relentlessly pummeled St. Louis pitching. The two loudest home runs came on back-to-back shots from Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in the fifth inning. Bryant’s home run gave Chicago a lead.
Kyle Schwarber, Starlin Castro, Jorge Soler and Dexter Fowler were also in on the barrage, meaning the first six in Chicago’s lineup took part. Soler’s two-run shot was the dagger against Adam Wainwright in the sixth.
• The Cardinals don’t have any answers for Jorge Soler. After reaching base in all five plate appearances in Game 2, he reached base all four times up in Game 3. That included a huge two-run homer that extended Chicago’s lead. In the series, he has two homers, a double, single and five walks.
• Slump? What slump. Kris Bryant came into Game 3 hitless in 11 postseason at-bats, but quickly changed that with a first-inning single. Of course, he’d make an even stronger statement later, rocketing that go-ahead home run off Michael Wacha.
• Kyle Schwarber continued to show his remarkable offensive upside, launching an opposite field home run off Wacha in the second inning, It was his only hit of the game, but it separated him from the rookie pack in Cubs history.
• Starlin Castro’s relationship with Cubs fans runs hot and cold. It’s hot right now, just like his bat. Castro recorded his second sttraight two-hit game, including the home run.
• Michael Wacha was unable to rediscover the form that made him a postseason star in 2013. The Cardinals right-hander was tagged for three of Chicago’s home runs in just 4 1/3 innings of work. Overall, he’s allowed 13 runs in his last 8 1/3 postseason innings. That dates back to one relief appearance last season and a start in 2013.
• Jake Arrieta’s run of dominance had to hit a bump eventually. It came in Game 3, as he uncharacteristically struggled with his command and got knocked around for fours run over 5 2/3 innings. Arrieta showed his first cracks after walking back-to-back batters starting the fifth inning. Coming in, he had not walked any of his previous 88 hitters. A bad outing was bound to happen, and the Cubs did well to survive it.
After the Cubs fifth-inning rally gave them a lead, the Cardinals answered right back thanks to a Jason Heyward two-run homer. That home run knocked Arrieta from the game and likely gave Cubs fans an awful yet familar feeling in their stomach. Soler made that go away quickly with his homer. It put the Cubs lead back up to three and they never looked back again.
Jake Arrieta is human, it seems. But a human that’s still really good at pitching.
• How good is this young Cubs offense now, and how good could they possibly be two or three years from now? These young kids are fearless and their upside is enormous.
• The Cardinals have been resilient all season in winning 100 games and have been a historically difficult team to put away in the postseason. Will they be able to overcome again? Will the upstart Cubs knock their long-time rivals out for good? Will another unforeseen hurdle prevent the Cubs from advancing as has been their unfortunate reality throughout the years? Stay tuned.
The Cardinals will look to keep hope alive in Game 4 with Lance Lynn (12-11, 3.03) scheduled to take the ball. He’ll be opposed by Jason Hammel (10-7, 3.94). First pitch is scheduled for 4:37 p.m. ET and it should be absolutely nuts at Wrigley FIeld. The game will air on TBS.
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