The Chicago Cubs blanked the St. Louis Cardinals, 5-0, with Jake Arrieta serving up seven scoreless innings while fanning ten and only allowed five hits. Mike Leake was routed with the five earned runs in his 3.1 innings pitched. In support of Leake, there were some calls that were questionable. On the flip-side, he owns a horrible first inning. Even though, a hit that should have been called foul as it exited the first base line prior to reaching the bag. A stolen base which should have been an out, safe call held. Leake was hit-by-a-pitch on his right hand that was deemed "not" by the first base umpire Jim Reynolds. Leake's throwing hand compromised. However, the Cardinals offense were unable to hit off Arrieta; or, the Cubs bullpen. No run support for Leake; or, the Cardinals bullpen.
The game is history, it is what it was; and, the Cubs take a 1-0 series lead in the "Route 66 Rivalry" three game series. With the loss, the Cardinals return to the third spot in the NL Wild Card race. The New York Mets are now the sole owners of first with the San Francisco Giants in second, one game separating each. With Cubs win, all they need is one more to have home field advantage for their postseason.
GAME TWO AT HIGH NOON SATURDAY
Cardinals will look to their rookie starter, Alex Reyes, to right the train wreck of Game One. This will be his second consecutive start and his third appearance against the Cubs. This young 22 year old has tremendous talent, a calm confidence on the mound, smooth delivery, still working on "complete" control; but, it surfacing from Reyes. Beginning his major league career out of the bullpen, penciled into the rotation and back to a relief role. He returns to the rotation for his third start this season.
The last Reyes faced the Cubs, at Busch Stadium, he followed Jaime Garcia in long relief. He went 4.1 IP/4 SO but, issued six walks of his 18 season total. However, he only gave up one hit to the Cubs and was able to get out of two jammed innings to hold the Cubs scoreless for his second win in relief. In his last start, September 18 for his third season win, against the San Francisco Giants, he brought his "A" game to the mound. He held the Giants to just four hits, only issued two walks with six strikeouts in his seven scoreless innings pitch for the Cardinals 3-0 shutout.
He is 3-1/1.03 ERA in his total 35 IP relief and as a starter. He has only given up 1 HR/4 ER with 40 strikeouts since he was brought up from Memphis Triple-A, August 9. In 7.1 IP facing the Cubs 20 AB thus far, he has only allowed two hits and "no" earned runs for their 1.00 average. Yes, a lot is riding on the shoulders on the Cardinals young hurler. In my opinion, he will approach this game as he has all others. Pitching to each batter he faces. The plus, he is familiar with the Cubs sluggers.
The question is will the Cardinals offense able to put runs on the board 'during the day'.
Reyes was scheduled to face Cubs Kyle Hendricks. Evidently, the Cubs are looking to postseason to rest Hendricks postponing his next start to September 26 facing the Pittsburgh Pirates. Or, as I would like to think, Cubs manager Joe Maddon wants to save Hendricks (15-8/2.06 ERA) another loss. Facing the Cardinals, at Busch Stadium September 12, his no-no complete game was retired on a solo home run by top-of-the-order Jeremy Hazelbaker in the top of his ninth inning. His last outing at home, September 19, he was handed a loss in the 3-1 win by the Milwaukee Brewers. While fanning nine he gave up two earned runs in six innings pitched. Therefore, Reyes will face Cubs Jason Hammel (15-9/3.56 ERA).
Hammel is 2-2/3.65 ERA facing the Cardinals. He has given up 4 HR/10 ER with 22 strikeouts in his total 24.2 IP. Cardinals collective past history against Hammel, they have hit him for a .293 average. Even though, Hammel is on his own turf this afternoon. At home, he has been a force to contend with. He is 10-1/1.84 ERA. In his total 83.1 IP he has only given up 6 HR/17 ER with 74 SO, but issued 29 free passes. He is 1-2 in September with a 6.87 ERA; however, two of those games were on the road. His last stand, September 19, at Wrigley Field, he went 7 IP/1 HR/2 ER/1-BB/6 SO for the Cubs 5-2 win.
THE FINAL DECISION WILL BE THE LAST OUT MADE
All the paper numbers are meaningful as guidelines. But, as Cardinals fans saw yesterday, with Arrieta having a rough beginning in September, he was lights-out for the Cubs 5-0 shutout. Today's match-up between Reyes and Hammel could prove to be quite the duel. However, if Cardinals offense has returned, I feel Reyes will realize his fourth win this season.
I look for both 1B/OF Brandon Moss and SS rookie Aledmys Diaz back in the line-up today. Moss who has struggled of late at the plate has had two days off to regroup. Diaz, coming back from DL sustaining a fractured thumb HBP, has been held out of play as precaution. As all find out yesterday, Cardinals need the experience of Moss in the outfield. Kolten Wong was thrown in the fire playing left field yesterday. His first in the position. I feel, as we are coming down the stretch, this is not the time for 'try-outs'. The Cardinals have bench players OF Tommy Pham and Jeremy Hazelbaker, both seasoned left-fielders, who would have done a far better job. I'm not faulting Wong. He accepted his 'specified' assignment to try and do his best. Bottomline, even though he worked in centerfield while spending some time at Memphis Triple-A this season, second base is his expertise.