The beauty of baseball is that with no clock, technically no lead is insurmountable. Sure, we can apply logic to know that a team isn’t scoring, say, 13 runs when down to their final out, but you never have to worry about running out of time. Only outs. In the case of the Cubs-Cardinals bout in St. Louis on Tuesday night, the game seemed like a foregone conclusion for an awful long time.
The Cardinals took a 6-1 lead to the ninth. And then they made some mistakes, left the door open, the Cubs got two clutch hits and it ended up 7-6 Cubs.
Patrick Wisdom led off the inning with a strikeout, but got on first base via a wild pitch. Nico Hoerner followed with an infield single and Wisdom was able to reach third on a throwing error. Then Jake Marisnick walked. Then Sergio Alcantara walked to score one run. Willson Contreras struck out, but things picked back up with Anthony Rizzo walked to make it 6-3. A Javier Báez single scored two and Ian Happ doubled down the line for two more. Just like that, it was 7-6 Cubs.
Craig Kimbrel showed up in the bottom half of the ninth to close the door with relative ease and the Cubs were going home winners.
The Cardinals took a 2-1 lead in the fourth and progressively tacked on while the Cubs’ offense looked punchless. It seemed over even when it was just 2-1. The Cardinals’ win expectancy topped 90 percent in the sixth. It was over 99 percent by the seventh and was over 99 throughout the eighth. Take a look:
MLB teams entering the ninth inning with a lead of five runs or more this season were 383-1 before this one (via Jesse Rogers of ESPN). The other one was the Yankees’ meltdown against the Astros the day before the All-Star break. The last time the Cubs did this was May 10, 2000 (via Jordan Bastian of mlb.com).
Big picture, this is unlikely to change much with the Cubs. They are 8 1/2 games out of first and in position to sell some of their biggest names in front of the July 30 trade deadline. If anything this was a bigger blow in hurting the Cardinals. They had won three in a row and had a chance to move to within 7 1/2 games of the Brewers while they have 13 games remaining head-to-head against the Brewers. If they’re hoping to pull off a miracle and run down the Brewers, a meltdown like this really puts a damper on those thoughts.