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Notebook: More 9th-inning magic not enough for Cubs

2 weeks agoTony Andracki

ST. LOUIS — Two outs, nobody on, trailing by a run.

That’s prime opportunity for the comeback kings.

For the third time in the past week, the Cubs pulled off a dramatic 9th-inning rally. Only it wasn’t enough for a victory as the Cardinals walked it off in the home half of the 10th inning Wednesday night for a 3-2 win.

The Cubs led 1-0 for much of the game before the Cardinals plated a pair of runs in the 7th inning off Kyle Hendricks and Andrew Chafin.

In the 9th, Nico Hoerner was down to his final strike but was plunked on the elbow by a Giovanny Gallegos offering. The next batter — pinch-hitter Eric Sogard — dumped a ball in the right-center gap and just like that, the game was tied.

The Cubs threatened for more in the 9th inning after the next two batters were hit by a pitch but Anthony Rizzo was thrown out on a hard ground ball into the shift.

In the top of the 10th, Rizzo served as the Cubs’ free runner on second base and immediately advanced to third on Javy Báez’s single. Tuesday night’s hero — Ian Happ — came up and grounded to the shortstop. It appeared the Cardinals were content taking the double play and letting the run score but Rizzo hesitated and was ultimately tagged out in a rundown.

“I just gotta stay out of the double play there,” Rizzo said. “It’s on me. I thought it was up the middle and I froze and I should’ve just went right away to stay out of the double play. And I didn’t. I messed up. It’s a bad feeling.”

The Cubs never scored in the inning and in the bottom of the 10th, Yadier Molina sent a Craig Kimbrel fastball into deep right field to deliver a walk-off victory for the Cardinals.

The Cubs offense had plenty of opportunities all night against Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals bullpen. But stellar defensive plays from Harrison Bader and Nolan Arenado helped quell potential scoring chances and the Cubs couldn’t convert in the situational hitting department (1-for-14 with runners in scoring position, 12 left on base).

Hendricks allowed 2 runs in 6.1 innings and now has a 3.61 ERA on the season. He hasn’t lost a decision since May 9 and has thrown at least 6 innings in each of those 13 outings.

“Kyle was great,” David Ross said. “The swinging bunt there in the 7th, we put ourselves in a situation where we’ve gotta be perfect. We’ve gotta give him some more runway there. He’s throwing as good as he can throw and one thing doesn’t go our way and all the sudden, it’s a tie ballgame and we’ve gotta get him cranking.

“That was a night where you feel like you could really let him go; there wasn’t a whole lot of traffic. I thought he threw phenomenal. Another great performance from him. He’s been as steady and as good as anybody.”

NOTES

—Veteran Matt Duffy is in St. Louis and expected to return from the 60-day injured list Thursday after missing the last two months with a low back injury.

Duffy, 30, was hitting .278 with a .377 on-base percentage in 38 games prior to the landing on the shelf. He was an X-factor for this Cubs lineup with his high-contact approach.

—Kris Bryant was out of the lineup Wednesday night after exiting Tuesday’s game with hamstring fatigue. Bryant never got into the extra-inning affair and David Ross confirmed after the game that the versatile star was unavailable.

He could rejoin the lineup for Thursday’s series finale in St. Louis.

—Rafael Ortega led off for the Cubs and went 2-for-3 with a triple, RBI and stolen base. He is hitting .400 with a 1.064 OPS in 28 plate appearances this month and has been a breath of fresh air for the team of late.

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