Cubs Take Round 1

$_1.JPGThe St. Louis Cardinals fell to 0-4 against fellow members of the division’s Big Three, ending on the low end of a 5-0 shutout at home against the Chicago Cubs last night.

John Lackey returned to last year’s stomping grounds and erased his first two starts of the season with an 11-strikeout performance, tossing 7 shutout innings.

True, Lackey entered the game with a 2-0 record. But this is a blogger who feels won-loss records for pitchers are some of the worst commonplace statistics out there, so we’re not going to focus on that. Would a pitcher with an ERA over 6 have a 2-0 record if he pitched for a team with an average offense? Hell no.

Lackey escaped a jam in the bottom of the 5th, when the Redbirds put runners at 2nd and 3rd with one out and Cardinals starter Mike Leake at the plate.

On a botched squeeze play, Kolten Wong was halfway down the line at 3rd and hung out to dry.

Cubs catcher Miguel Montero ran Wong back and had him dead at 3rd base, waiting to throw the ball down there to Addison Russell covering the bag for the tag.

Problem was that Kris Bryant was also near the bag and essentially intercepted Montero’s throw, allowing Wong to make it back to the bag.

Never mind, though, because Lackey came back to whiff Leake and then retire Matt Carpenter on one of the more impressive efforts on the night, ending with another strikeout.

Leake kept pace through 5 innings until Dexter Fowler broke up the double shutout with a solo homer in the top of the 6th.

In the 6th, St. Louis shortstop Aledmys Diaz made a costly error, air-mailing a throw over first baseman Brandon Moss‘ head and into the dugout.

It was Diaz’s 4th error as the 3rd string shortstop for the Cardinals. Backup shortstop Ruben Tejada was activated from the disabled list and starting shortstop Jhonny Peralta is still out another month or two.

The Cardinals have now made 15 errors, which is worst in the league. Their .970 fielding percentage is 2nd worst, one point ahead of the woeful Cincinnati Reds.

Their 7 errors at the shortstop position are 3 more than any other team in the big leagues and the .868 fielding percentage at the position is about as awful as anything you’ve seen outside of 19th-century baseball.

Diaz’s error allowed Bryant to score and Montero to move to 3rd.

Montero would then score on a sac fly by Russell – again, a nice at bat in which he was clearly only trying to loft the ball and get the run home. Lackey followed with an RBI single that made it 4-0 and the Cubs ran away with things.

New Cub Jason Heywardreferred to as “the turncoat” by St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Jeff Gordon this morning – continued his typical rough-hitting April with another 0-fer in his return to Busch Stadium (where he played just one season) but also had a couple of nice defensive plays in right field.

The Birds get a good chance to pick up their first 2016 win against one of their major divisional rivals tonight when Jaime Garcia (1-0, 2.40) takes the mound against Jason Hammel (1-0, 0.75).

Garcia has Cy Young stuff when healthy – the problem being that his arm usually falls off at some point.

Hammel had an All-Star first half for Chicago last year before a miserable second half that saw him routinely yanked before he completed five innings. Part of that may have been due to a leg injury suffered mid-way through the season which he never fully recovered from.

Regardless, Hammel supposedly had a renewed focus on nutrition and exercise this off-season, guided by teammate and workout addict Jake Arrieta. So far Hammel has had two nice starts to show for it.

It’s always a good time for baseball fans when these two teams face each other. 18 more match-ups remain between the two.

The bell on Round Two rings at 7:15 tonight.

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