ST. LOUIS -- Off to their best start (through 26 games) in modern franchise history, the Cardinals scored another come-from-behind victory -- this one a 7-4 win over the Cubs at Busch Stadium -- to run their winning streak to eight on Tuesday. It's the longest winning streak by the club since July 2010.
After erasing deficits of five and four runs in a series-opening win, the Cardinals climbed out of a three-run hole to bump the Cubs 6 1/2 games back in the division and become the first team since the 2003 Yankees to open a season with 20 wins in its first 26 games. It hasn't happened in the National League since '00 (Braves).
"It's hard to describe it," said Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter, who delivered a game-tying homer in the fifth. "I said this at the beginning of Spring Training, but I felt this year we had every piece we needed. In years past, we were short a long guy or a spot on the bench. But I felt like this year we had every role [filled] and everybody is doing a great job."
The Cubs tied the game in the third with an unearned run off Cardinals spot starter Tyler Lyons before tagging him for three runs in the fifth. Carpenter erased that with a three-run homer off starter Kyle Hendricks, and the Cards tacked on three more against Chicago's bullpen.
"We're missing two really nice pitchers in [Neil] Ramirez and [Justin] Grimm," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "The other guys, we just have to give them the ball and get that moment done. I think we're playing really well. We have to keep leads." More >
The Cubs have now lost four straight for the first time this year. With another 4 2/3 scoreless innings from the bullpen, the Cardinals' relievers have posted a 0.71 ERA while covering 38 1/3 innings during these eight straight wins. Miguel Socolovich worked out of a key bases-loaded spot in a scoreless eighth.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Splendid sixth: A day after providing a shot in the arm with a first-inning grand slam, Mark Reynolds came off the bench and delivered a go-ahead RBI double off Cubs reliever Edwin Jackson in the sixth. It was the third run-scoring hit Reynolds has had as a pinch-hitter this season. The Cardinals tacked on an insurance run with Carpenter's bases-loaded sacrifice fly later in the inning. More >
"Our confidence is always high, but the way we've been winning games lately, especially the [three extra-inning wins in the] Pittsburgh series and these past two days, coming back, I don't think there's anyone in this clubhouse that doesn't think we're going to win every night," Reynolds said.
Opportunity knocks: The Cubs loaded the bases with two outs in the second, but couldn't score. They broke through in the fifth, loading the bases against Lyons with one out. Seth Maness got Starlin Castro to hit a potential double-play grounder, but the Cardinals could only get the force at second and two runs scored on the play thanks to heads up baserunning by Kris Bryant, who was on second. Bryant may not have a homer, but he's doing little things to help the team.
Carpenter crushes: Carpenter erased a three-run deficit with one fifth-inning swing, lining a Hendricks sinker over the right-field wall for his team-leading fifth homer. Carpenter, who has 20 extra-base hits in 26 games, came up after Kolten Wong had singled and pinch-hitter Peter Bourjos had taken a pitch off his back. Carpenter drew a curtain call from the crowd.
"He's been encouraged to drive the ball," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said, "and three-run home runs make a big difference in our game."
Arms race: The Cubs needed Hendricks to go deep to give the bullpen a breather but the right-hander lasted five innings. He hasn't been as sharp as last season and has been plagued by one bad inning. Hendricks gave up four homers over 80 1/3 innings in his 13 starts in 2014; this year, he's already served up three over 25 2/3 innings. He was charged with four earned runs Tuesday, and now has given up 16 earned runs in five starts. In his final 10 starts last year, he was charged with 17 earned runs. More >
"Hitting guys, walking guys, that's not what I do," Hendricks said. "It's just getting that feel. I've obviously got to make a change."
"I know that my story is a little different, but I don't want to be any more different than anybody else. To me, it's just like [it would be] for anybody else. It's my first win, and I'm excited. We'll celebrate later on when we do bigger things." -- Cardinals reliever Mitch Harris, on becoming the first graduate of the United States Naval Academy to win a Major League game. More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• With an announced attendance of 41,613 at Busch Stadium on Tuesday, the Cardinals have now had 40,000-plus fans for 100 consecutive games. That streak dates back to Sept. 25, 2013.
• The Cubs' bullpen has given up 17 runs (16 earned) over 19 innings in the last six games, and the team has been outscored 20-8 in the sixth inning over that time.
• Anthony Rizzo tied a season high with three hits. He now has 28 career games with three or more hits, and only seven of those came without an RBI.
The Cubs won a challenge in the fourth. The Cardinals had runners at first and third with one out when Yadier Molina hit a grounder to Bryant, who threw to second for the force. Addison Russell then threw to Rizzo for a possible double play. Rizzo had to do the splits to catch the ball and keep a toe on the bag. Rizzo's foot did come off the bag after he touched it, and Molina was originally called safe at first, but after review, the call was overturned.
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs:Jon Lester will make his second career start at Busch Stadium on Wednesday. It's his first game at the Cardinals' home park since winning Game 5 of the 2013 World Series with the Red Sox. The lefty is coming off his first win with the Cubs, a victory over the Brewers when he threw seven scoreless innings. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. CT.
Cardinals: Right-hander Lance Lynn will hope for an uptick in run support as he takes the mound against the Cubs on Wednesday. The offense has scored just 10 runs in his five starts this year. He is 4-1 with a 1.41 ERA in six games at home against Chicago.