By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Continuing a troubling trend would be a fair way to describe the Cubs’ limited offense output as of late.
It wasn’t much better Friday as Chicago returned home from an 0-6 road trip, but the offense did just enough to get the job done in a 3-2 win against the rival St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field. The Cubs’ win was keyed by intelligent baserunning by Anthony Rizzo and clutch at-bats from Jason Heyward.
The Cubs entered Friday with a .209 average with runners in scoring position, the worst mark in the National League. For long stretches, they were stymied by Cardinals right-hander Lance Lynn. Kris Bryant’s third-inning solo homer was one of just two hits through five innings.
After being out of sync, the Cubs tied it in the sixth inning when Heyward’s long fly ball to right field was lost in the sun by the Cardinals’ Stephen Piscotty near the 368-foot sign. The double allowed Rizzo, who had walked to lead off the frame, to score and knot the game 2-2.
That set the stage for the eighth inning. After Cubs reliever Pedro Strop struck out Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina to strand the bases loaded in the top half, Rizzo led off the bottom half with a slicing double. Then came the play of the game, as Rizzo moved to third on a ground ball by Ben Zobrist to Cardinals third baseman Jhonny Peralta. Rizzo timed his dash to third perfectly as Peralta threw to first base.
Rizzo then scored what would be the winning run on a Heyward sacrifice fly.
“I saw where Peralta was playing,” Rizzo said. “He was playing off the bag. It was just one of those plays where he had to go to his backhand a little bit. He did not have enough time to really look me back and set his feet. Once he looked me back, I knew the two middle infielders were not around. So you take off and hope for the best.”
Heyward’s two key RBIs fueled the Cubs snapping their six-game losing streak. He credited Rizzo and Zobrist for the setup of his go-ahead RBI in the eighth.
“Huge,” was how Heyward described the base-running of Rizzo. “That is a testament to how we need to be as a group. We lead by example. Ben Zobrist getting the ball down and Tony getting over to third base. It was huge to give me a chance to put a run on the board.”
“Our run differential really went up today,” manager Joe Maddon joked about the one-run victory after run differential was a hot topic in his pregame media session. The Cubs’ run differential is now 243-242 this season.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.