April 18: Cubs Lay Down The Hammer; Beat Cards 5-0

In a lot of ways, the season hasn’t really started until we’ve played the Cardinals. They’re our fiercest rival, generally one of our toughest tests, and nothing — I mean nothing — is quite like showing them how it’s done (kinda like the way we did just that in the NLDS last season). Last night we got our first look at this year’s St. Louis team, and for the Cubs it was it was a beauty.

With the back of the rotation up for this series, and considering the way we struggled offensively against Colorado, I had some concerns heading into this series that we could be at the start of a rough patch. Now, it may only be game one of the set, but the way this team competed last night showed me a lot.

John Lackey got the ball to start the game, and he threw an absolute gem. A 7 inning, 4 hit shutout for the former Cardinal was just what the doctor ordered. Lackey’s performance would take on even more importance considering the shutdown stuff that Cardinal’s starter Mike Leake was working with throughout most of the ballgame. Lackey navigated his way out of some tough spots in crucial moments, and gave the offense time to pull their heads out of their asses and really get some things going.

Surprise, surprise, it would all get started with Dexter Fowler. In the top of the 6th, Fowler crushed one 439′ to right center field, putting the first run of the game on the board. Then, in the 7th, the Cubs broke it open. After a couple hits to start the inning, Jorge Soler hit a sharp grounder to shortstop, which was then booted, picked up, and thrown over the head of the Cardinals first basemen, and into the stands along the first base line. Kris Bryant came around to score, Miguel Montero moved to 3rd. Then, Addison Russell came through with a nice long sac fly to plate Montero, and things were going swimmingly.

But the real magic was yet to come. Lackey would deliver next with a hard liner into left, scoring Matt Szczur, who came in to pinch run for Soler, and extending the lead to 4-0.

In the 8th, Kris Bryant would tack on the final run with a single to left, scoring Ben Zobrist who had just broken an 0-22 slump over 5 games.

In the 9th, Strop and Cahill would shutdown the Cards’ chances, closing out a big win for the good guys.

A couple other notes:

Jason Heyward, in his return to St. Louis, was held without a hit, but made a couple outstanding sliding catches in right field on shallow fly balls. Kris Bryant also added some slick glove work with a smooth backhand down the 3rd base line. Anthony Rizzo continued to struggle at the plate, going 0-3 with a HBP.

Tonight, we take on the Cards again at 8:15 eastern. Kyle Hendricks is on the hill, and will be looking to shape up after a rough previous start. For the Cards, Jaime Garcia gets the rock. Garcia through a 1 hit shutout in his last appearance, striking out 13, so we’ve got our work cut out for us, but so do they in dealing with a HOT lineup.