Dog days of August? Not for the Cubs, who have yet to lose in 10 games this month. Chicago jumped on St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright for seven runs in the first two innings en route to its 11th straight win, a 13-2 victory on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field. It's the first time the Cubs have won 11 in a row since a 12-game streak in 2001.
"What's unique about the group of guys we have is we have a lot of youth who have continued to learn on a really fast pace," Arrieta said.
The fire alarm went off in the Cubs' clubhouse after the game, but it had nothing to do with the red-hot streak the team is on. The fog machine in the celebration room apparently triggered the alarm.
"It happens every night," Arrieta said. "I'm surprised the alarm doesn't go off more often."
The Cubs are a season-high 32 games over .500 for the first time since finishing last year at 97-65, and they have a 14-game lead in the National League Central. This is Chicago's largest lead this late in the season since a 14 1/2-game cushion on Sept. 15, 1929. That year, the Cubs were the NL champs, but they lost to the Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series, 4-1.
Wainwright was lifted after two innings, matching the shortest outing of his career. The Cardinals have lost nine of their past 13 games.
"We're disappointed in how this season has gone," Wainwright said. "We're not like we should [be]. We should play a lot better than we have leading up to this point. We haven't played like we can."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Hail, Szczur: Cubs manager Joe Maddon gave a few regulars the day off after Thursday's extra-inning night game, and Szczur made his third start in center field. He made the most of it. Szczur doubled to lead off the Chicago first and scored on the first of two RBI doubles byKris Bryant. Szczur then led off the sixth with his fourth homer and added a two-run blast in the seventh. He hit one homer in 47 games last season with the Cubs.
Dexter Fowler, who Szczur replaced in center and at the leadoff spot for the day, got some good-natured ribbing about being replaced.
"I know my role," said Szczur, who will be back on the bench Saturday. "I'm going to stay in my lane. I show up to work every day and I try to be the best every day, no matter where I'm positioned at or what spot I'm in." More >
Early exit: Five days after allowing six runs before he recorded his sixth out, Wainwright surrendered seven in his two frames against Chicago. But unlike that last start in which he rebounded to finish six innings, Wainwright would not be given that chance on Friday. The only other time in his career that he had been pulled after two innings was on Aug. 28, 2013, after allowing nine runs to the Reds. The seven earned runs allowed matched a season high for Wainwright.
"I hadn't done anything to warrant him to want me to keep pitching," Wainwright said. "That's what I deserved. That was terrible. That was pathetic. I just let the team down." More >
Soler power: Friday was Soler's second start in the outfield since he was activated from the disabled list, and he delivered an RBI single in the second and a solo homer in the sixth. The Cubs are counting on the outfielder to find the same groove he did in the postseason last October, when he batted .474 in seven games.
Home run issues: In an effort to save his bullpen, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny stuck with reliever Jerome Williams, despite how ugly things got when Williams covered the final three innings of the game. Williams became the fourth reliever in franchise history to surrender four home runs in a game. It's an infamous piece of history that he now shares with Brett Tomko (June 14, 2003), Todd Burns (Aug. 24, 1993) and Johnny Stuart (June 22, 1925). Williams entered the day not having allowed a run in four appearances with St. Louis since being called up on July 25.
"He's got to wear it," Matheny said of Williams. "He knew coming in that he was going to have a versatile job description, and part of that was going to be pitching when we just needed innings. And we needed innings."
QUOTABLE "We know what we're capable of. Regardless of how many games you win the division by, it's a good thing, but once you get to October, the slate is clean. That's the focus. Obviously, we'll try to continue to play good baseball up until that point, clinch the division and go from there. We've done a really nice job." -- Arrieta
"When you pull your starter after two and you have your starting catcher coming out after four [innings], it's obvious that you just have to lick your wounds, fight your way [through], maybe give some guys an opportunity to get [the team] back into it. It's just one of those games you try to make the most of and find some positives." -- Matheny
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Stephen Piscotty's homer off Arrieta in the fifth was the first served up by the right-hander at Wrigley Field since Ryan Howard connected for the Phillies on July 25, 2015.
The Cubs' five home runs matches their season high. They've reached that mark three other times, most recently on June 27 at Cincinnati.
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals: Luke Weaver, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the organization's No. 2 prospect, will be making his Major League debut as the Cardinals try to halt the Cubs' winning streak on Saturday. Weaver, who steps in for an injured Michael Wacha, posted a 1.30 ERA in 13 Minor League starts this season.
Cubs: There's no place like Wrigley Field for Kyle Hendricks, who will start Saturday. He's 8-1 with a 1.19 ERA at home, the best home ERA in the Majors. He has the second-best ERA in the big leagues at 2.17, and since June 19, he's 7-1 with a 1.06 ERA. First pitch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT.