A Tip of the Recap – 5/23 (Cardinals 4, Cubs 3)

Cubs record: 29-14 (1st in NL Central)

W: Trevor Rosenthal (2-1, 2.40)

L: Adam Warren (3-1, 2.08)

MVP: Randal Grichuk

The Cardinals struck first in this one, taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 3rd thanks to an Aledmys Diaz sacrifice fly. The Cubs answered quickly in the top of the 4th, however, as Miguel Montero hit a run-scoring single to center to tie the game. Addison Russell added an RBI ground out later in the inning to put the Cubs on top, 2-1.

Chicago added on in the following inning, as a patient approach against St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright worked to great effect. After a Dexter Fowler line-out, Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist took back-to-back walks before Bryant was driven in on an Anthony Rizzo single to make it 3-1.

With the way Lackey was pitching, that looked as if it may have been enough. Unfortunately for the Cubs, it was not to be. With two outs and a man on first, pinch-hitter Matt Adams hit one of Lackey’s few mistakes over the wall in center, tying the game at 3-all.

The Cubs threatened in the 9th against Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal, as they put men on the corners with one out, but Chicago’s recent run of bad luck continued. Rizzo, who has had his share of back luck during this stretch, hit a looper to third that St. Louis third baseman Chris Carpenter caught in the air on a dive. Carpenter was then able to get up and step on third to double off Fowler, who was halfway home when the ball was caught.

Adam Warren came out for his second inning of relief in the bottom half of the inning and, after getting two quick outs, it appeared as if this one was heading to extras. Grichuk quickly ended those thoughts with a walk-off, solo home run to right center to give the Cardinals a 4-3 win.

The Good

As has been the case the entire month of May, the Cubs got a strong outing from Lackey. The veteran righty went seven innings, allowing three runs on four hits and a walk to go along with nine strikeouts. Lackey actually pitched much better than his final line would indicate, but his one bad pitch of the evening was hit out of the park to inflate his numbers.

Despite his good numbers this month (2.50 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 34 K in 36 IP), Lackey only carries a 1-1 record in May. While pitcher wins are overrated (as these numbers clearly illustrate), you would still expect a better record over such an impressive stretch.

The Bad

Another season, another fluke statistic that the Cardinals seem to have breaking their way.

In 2013, it was a team batting average of .330 with runners in scoring position, the highest by a team since it became a recorded stat in 1974. Last season, St. Louis pitchers were the beneficiary of a historically anomalistic stat, as they stranded opposing runners on base at a rate of 79.4 percent, the second-highest percentage since 1900.

This season, it appears that pinch-hit home runs are the new oddball outlier. The home run from Adams was the ninth pinch-hit home run of the season for the Cardinals, three ahead of second-place Washington.

While I don’t believe this is sustainable over the entirety of the season, I thought the same thing in ’13 and ’15, so who knows.

The Ugly

Two bad pitches with two outs really did in the Cubs Monday night. The first tied the game in the bottom of the 7th, while the latter won it in the 9th for the Cardinals. A disappointing ending to a game the Cubs should have won.

The loss moves Chicago to 4-8 over its last 12 games and the offense remains mired in a slump. In only three games during this stretch have the Cubs scored more than three runs.

Coming Attractions

The Cubs continue their series against the Cardinals Tuesday night at 6:10 p.m. (CST) in St. Louis. Jason Hammel (5-1, 2.31) will take the hill for Chicago, as he looks to bounce back from his first loss of the season. St. Louis will counter with Michael Wacha (2-4, 4.03), who is coming off a poor outing against Colorado (4 IP, 8 H, 6 ER).

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