One of the Major League Baseball season’s marquee series is taking place this weekend, with the rival St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs squaring off at Wrigley Field with first place in the National League Central at stake. The first three games have been a knockout in favor of the Cardinals.
St. Louis hasn’t just won all three games. The Cardinals have won them in dramatic fashion, getting a 10th-inning home run off of Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel on Thursday night (after the Cubs rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth) and two homers off Kimbrel to win 9-8 on Saturday.
In between, Yadier Molina’s two-run single in the sixth inning allowed the Cardinals to win 2-1 on Friday afternoon.
They gave the sub-leasers an eviction notice. https://t.co/ubAh7HogZN
— Derrick S. Goold (@dgoold) September 22, 2019
Sealing the deal
The Cardinals entered the weekend with a three-game lead on the Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers. That was tenuous because seven of the Cards’ final 10 games were against the Cubs.
But after beating them three straight times at Wrigley Field, it’s a six-game lead with just seven to play. The Cubs are all but eliminated from the NL Central race. (It’s worth noting the Brewers also have won all three games this weekend, staying three back of the Cardinals and giving themselves a three-game edge on the Cubs for the final wild-card spot.)
According to FanGraphs, the Cardinals’ chances of winning the division went from 74 percent to 92.9 percent, while the Cubs’ playoff chances have cratered from 58.2 percent to 8.6 percent.
NL playoff chances, per Fangraphs:
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) September 22, 2019
A sinking feeling
As for the Cubs, it could spell the end of a dramatic season. Kimbrel, whom Chicago acquired in June after he couldn’t find a deal to his liking during the offseason, has been right at the center of it.
Kimbrel returned from his second stint on the injured list in time for Thursday’s game. After the Cubs staged a dramatic rally to tie the game in the ninth inning against Cardinals closer Carlos Martinez, Wrigley was rocking. But then Kimbrel allowed the home run to Matt Carpenter to lose the game.
Saturday might have been even worse. Kimbrel was given an 8-7 lead, with the Cubs an inning away from staying in the race and keeping their playoff chances stable. He gave up back-to-back homers to Molina and Paul DeJong to lead off the inning. Martinez slammed the door in the bottom of the ninth, and the Cardinals put their rivals on the brink of elimination.
St. Louis goes for the four-game sweep and the final knockout blow Sunday.
“I was pumped out there, I was excited, felt like I had good stuff. And then right there off the bat with two home runs. Frustrating.”https://t.co/w799uzAsdS
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) September 22, 2019