Tide has turned in Cubs-Cardinals rivalry

Tide has turned in Cubs-Cardinals rivalry

ST. LOUIS -- Despite losing, 5-3, on Wednesday, the Cubs took the first series against the Cardinals, and now have won eight of the past 12 regular-season meetings. That's quite a turnaround after opening the 2015 season 2-8 against St. Louis.

"This is a team we can compete with," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "Now we know we can compete with these guys, and obviously, we've played well against them."

Matt Holliday sparked Wednesday's win with a two-run homer to back Carlos Martinez. The Cubs trailed, 4-1, when rain interrupted play in the seventh, causing a three-hour and 21-minute delay. Chicago then tallied twice in the eighth -- including an RBI single by Anthony Rizzo, who had homered in the fourth -- to close to 4-3, but St. Louis added an insurance run in the eighth on Yadier Molina's RBI single.

Statcast: Rizzo's solo home run

"Winning the series is always your goal," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "You get greedy after winning the first two -- you always want to try to sweep the series at that point. My takeaway is, after winning the first two games, being behind, three hours, 21 minutes hanging out in the clubhouse [during the delay] and going out with that kind of attitude, that speaks volumes for our group. That says a lot.

"Everybody was ready to play, everybody wanted to play, nobody shut the switch off. Beyond winning two out of three, that was the part that was most impressive."

The Cubs did make a statement last October, beating the Cardinals in the National League Division Series. This three-game set marked not only the first meeting since then but also Jason Heyward's and John Lackey's return to St. Louis in Chicago uniforms after both signed free-agent deals with the Cubs. Fans at Busch Stadium welcomed both back with boos.

"They've been a great team for a long time," Hoyer said of the Cardinals. "The steadiness of [the Cardinals] organization is remarkable. We're trying to get to that point. At least now, when we come in here, we feel there are two really good teams playing. We have to execute our pitches and make plays and get hits, but there's not the sense that we don't have the ability. We certainly have that ability."

It's no longer a rivalry in name only.

"It was three really hard-fought games, the last two really close," Maddon said. "I love having this kind of emotion on a daily basis. It's good for you as a person, as a player. I know the fans are into it. I love the competitive nature in the game. It's healthy."

The two will meet again May 23-25 in St. Louis, and the first series in Chicago isn't until June 20-22.

"Any game in our division, we've got to take care of," Rizzo said. "To come in and win two out of three is nice. We have to get ready for [Thursday] and Cincinnati. They're a good team, too."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.