CHICAGO -- The Cubs' kids continued their power surge with rookies Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant belting back-to-back home runs and Addison Russell making a spectacular diving play to end the game as Chicago posted a 5-4 win Saturday over the Cardinals. The Cubs are now five games behind the Cards in the NL Central and are creeping on the Pirates, who maintained their one-game lead for the top NL Wild Card spot after beating the Dodgers.
"We want to win the division and we're showing emotion, and we're ready to fight for it," Bryant said. "We don't want to just settle for a Wild Card spot. We want it all."
"Every loss stings," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "There is plenty of drama. It's out there, and I get it. But not for us. This one hurts just like the last one hurt. It's just too fresh right now, because that was a great effort to get us right at the door. I admire how these guys fight. That's something they're not going to lose, and it's going to pay off for us in the long run."
"That was one of the best," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Russell's dive. "That was a base hit the moment it left the bat. [Russell] just willed his glove on that ball at the end of it. … He was in the moment, and that's what permitted him to make that play."
Michael Wacha took the loss and has seen enough of the Cubs. He now has given up 16 earned runs over 21 innings against Chicago for a 6.86 ERA, but the right-hander has a 2.56 ERA against all other teams.
With the blasts by Soler and Bryant in the fifth, the Cubs' rookies now have totaled 63 home runs this season, the fifth highest all time in the Major Leagues, matching the 1972 Giants.
Home-field advantage for the Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser on Oct. 7 would definitely benefit the Cubs. Chicago improved to 45-28 at Wrigley Field and has won 19 of its past 23 home games.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Kid stuff: Soler launched the first pitch he saw from Wacha into the left-field bleachers for his eighth home run, and Bryant followed three pitches later with his 25th. With the blast, Bryant tied the club record for most home runs by a Cubs rookie, set in 1961 by Hall of Famer Billy Williams. Bryant also hit an RBI double in the first, and now has 95 RBIs, which leads all Major League rookies. More >
Coming up empty: After doubling and scoring the Cardinals' second-inning run, cleanup hitter Jhonny Peralta ended three innings by making an out with at least one runner on base. He was a bit unlucky, too. Peralta was called out on a fifth-inning foul tip that replays showed bounced before hitting David Ross' mitt. Two runners were stranded in that inning. Another two were left in scoring position in the seventh when Bryant snared Peralta's line drive to third. In the ninth, Peralta was called out on strikes with the potential tying runs aboard.
'Penmanship: Because of a doubleheader in Pittsburgh, the Cubs opted for a "bullpen day" Saturday. That meant all hands on deck. Travis Wood left Wrigley Field on Friday before he got word that he would be starting, but the lefty didn't seem to mind, and lasted 2 2/3 innings. Trevor Cahill followed and went 2 1/3 innings. His big moment came in the fifth when the first two Cardinals reached but he escaped, striking out both Jason Heyward and Peralta.
Falling behind: Saturday marked the sixth time on this road trip that the Cardinals allowed their opponent to score first. This time, Chicago ambushed Wacha for a pair of runs while making Wacha throw 22 pitches in the opening frame. The Cardinals are 1-5 in those six games and have now been outscored 13-4 in the first inning this month.
"I felt like they were working me, fouling off a lot of tough pitches and making me work out there and driving that pitch count up," Wacha said. "They really did make me work out there, but I left a lot of pitches up in the zone, and they made me pay for it."
On Friday, Chicago's Dan Haren plunked Matt Holliday in the helmet, and both benches were warned. Cardinals pitcher Matt Belisle and manager Mike Matheny were then ejected after Anthony Rizzo was hit by a pitch in the seventh. On Saturday, St. Louis' Kolten Wong was plunked twice, and threw his bat in disgust after Fernando Rodney hit him with a pitch in the eighth. Home-plate umpire Bruce Dreckman then warned both benches. Hector Rondon hit pinch-hitter Greg Garcia to open the ninth, and he was ejected along with manager Joe Maddon. More >
"The umpire came to me and said to me, 'I know it's not on purpose, but you have to go out and take it,'" Rondon said.
"It's great for baseball. It's going to be a lot of fun [Sunday]. We're going to go home, forget about this and be ready for tomorrow." -- Carpenter, when asked about a re-energized Cards-Cubs rivalry
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Cubs have won 87 games in Maddon's first season. Only three managers have won more in their inaugural year with the Cubs: Johnny Evers won 88 in 1913; Jim Frey won 96 in 1984; and Dusty Baker won 88 in 2003.
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals: The Cardinals will wrap up their 10-game road trip on Sunday with one final regular-season game against the Cubs at 1:20 p.m. CT. Carlos Martinez, who dazzled while allowing one run in an eight-inning start versus Milwaukee on Tuesday, will take the mound in search of his 14th win. Martinez has made six relief appearances at Wrigley Field, but this will be his first start.
Cubs:Jon Lester will close the weekend series on Sunday, making his fifth start against the Cardinals this season. He's 1-2 with a 1.78 ERA so far, including a no-decision on Sept. 9 in St. Louis when he gave up one run over seven innings.