Once again, Jason Hammel helped himself, hitting a two-run single as well as striking out six over six innings to lift the Cubs to a 2-1 victory over the Cardinals on Tuesday night. Chicago is the first team to 11 wins this season, and is off to its best start since going 11-3 in 1970.
Hammel, who hit an RBI double in his last start, delivered the key hit in the fourth, and now has more RBIs (three) than runs allowed (two) for the season. The right-hander got a big assist from Jason Heyward in the bottom of the fourth. The Cardinals had runners at second and third with one out, and Yadier Molina flied out to right. Matt Holliday tried to score, but Heyward threw a perfect strike home to get him and end the inning.
"He's got to make a great throw, it doesn't matter who's running there and he made it," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "That's a play we need to try and push to make them make the play every time."
"A lot of momentum came back to us in that moment," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Heyward's throw. "He constantly makes great plays."
St. Louis starter Jaime Garcia, making his first start since throwing a one-hit shutout against the Brewers, struck out seven over five innings. The Cardinals' only run came on a rare Molina RBI triple in the second.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Pitchers can hit, too: Last season, Maddon often batted the pitcher eighth. He may want to consider moving the pitcher up. The Cubs loaded the bases with one out in the fourth afterJorge Soler walked and Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero singled. Garcia struck outAddison Russell, but Hammel delivered a two-run single to left. Hammel had four RBIs total in 32 games last season; he already has three in three outings this year, and Chicago pitchers have driven in a Major League-high seven runs. More >
"We hit every day, but I'm not trying anything different," Hammel said. "I'm trying to get the barrel out. I had a pitch down and in that I could handle. As long as I can put good wood on it, maybe I can squeak it through a hole."
Missed opportunities: A baserunning mistake cost the Cardinals at least one run in the second inning, when Matt Adams was caught stealing ahead of Molina's triple. The Cardinals also were unable to score with runners on second and third and no outs in the fourth and stranded two runners in the seventh and eighth innings. They also left the potential tying run on second base in the ninth, when Cubs closer Hector Rondon struck out pinch-hitter Jedd Gyorko to end the game.
"Against a club like that we've got to get the runs across," Adams said. "Everybody was going up there having good at-bats, and their pitchers just made good pitches." More >
Gilded glove: Maddon has called Heyward the perfect example of a five-tool player, and the right fielder showed one of his skills in the fourth with his perfect throw home. A three-time Gold Glove winner, Heyward was hitless in the first two games of the series, but made three nice catches Monday night and then his throw on Tuesday. More >
"It's a huge momentum swing there," Heyward said of throwing out Holliday at home to end the fourth. "Even if you're down, you feel like you stopped them from scoring the extra run in a one-run ballgame -- that's huge. Games like that are ones you'll have to win against great teams like the ones we're playing and against playoff teams."
Garcia not sharp: Garcia couldn't come up with a quality start on the heels of his one-hitter. Command was an issue as he walked four, and 59 of his 98 pitches were strikes. Garcia's 15 2/3 scoreless-innings streak was snapped by Hammel's two-run single in the fourth.
"The movement's a blessing and curse," Matheny said. "When he can control it and control it in the bottom of the zone, good things are going to happen. Then there's days when it's just going to run too much, and it's going to sail."
QUOTABLE "It doesn't matter who we're playing against, but if we don't execute in those situations, we don't get the job done, get the little things right, it doesn't matter who we're playing. We just got to control what we can control." -- Matheny, on the Cardinals being 0-5 against the Cubs and Pirates this season
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS With Hammel's outing, the Cubs starters now have gone at least six innings in each of the first 14 games. It's the first time the franchise has done that since 1910. All but one this year has been a quality start, and 13 quality starts leads the Major Leagues.
REPLAY REVIEW Cubs pinch-hitter Javier Baez appeared to be hit by a pitch on the left wrist leading off the seventh inning. The Cardinals challenged the call, and after a review, it was overturned.Kevin Siegrist struck out Baez swinging a few pitches later.
"Yadi probably heard it and then the guys upstairs saw something, it looked like it deflected the ball a little bit," Matheny said. "Just try to take a chance to keep the leadoff guy off base."
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs:Kyle Hendricks will look to deliver a series sweep on Wednesday. First pitch is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. CT. Hendricks is coming off a loss to the Rockies, although he did pitch six innings and two of the four runs off him were unearned. Expect to see Tommy La Stella in the lineup.
Cardinals:Carlos Martinez will look to build on a strong last outing, when he gave up three runs over seven innings in a 14-3 win against the Reds. Martinez was 2-0 with a 5.24 ERA in five appearances against the Cubs last season; the Cardinals won all five of those games.