Three to go: No no-no, but Cubs on cusp

Three to go: No no-no, but Cubs on cusp

ST. LOUIS -- Cy Young voters can't overlook Kyle Hendricks any more. The right-hander threw eight no-hit innings on Monday night before serving up a leadoff homer to Jeremy Hazelbaker in the ninth in the Cubs' 4-1 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. With the win, the Cubs' magic number to clinch the National League Central is now three.

"Unbelievably great," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Hendricks' outing. "It's unfortunate he did not get the no-hitter. They did not get good swings against him all night. He was in charge that entire game. It's got to catapult him in the minds of people voting right now. That was spectacular."

The loss cost the Cardinals an opportunity to leap the Mets in the NL Wild Card race. With both teams losing on Monday, the Mets still hold a half-game lead for the second Wild Card spot.

Pulse of the Postseason

Maddon lasted long enough to pull Hendricks from the game. Home-plate umpire Joe West ejected him after an animated argument following Hazelbaker's home run. It was the third time Maddon has been tossed this season.

"We needed a little more time to get [Aroldis Chapman] ready based on the situation," Maddon said. "I needed the catcher to go out to the mound, that's all. That's it. That's it. We were denied, and I didn't like that, so I made my stand."

Maddon ejected in the 9th

But this was Hendricks' night, and he now leads all Major League pitchers with a 2.03 ERA. He struck out seven and has given up three earned runs or fewer in each of his last 20 starts.

Hendricks' near no-hitter

Hendricks faced the minimum over seven innings, although he did walk Yadier Molina with one out in the second. But he got Jedd Gyorko to hit into a double play and end that inning. Hendricks also walked Gyorko with two outs in the eighth.

Hendricks turning Cy whispers into shouts

"He made not many mistakes in the middle of the plate," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, whose club fell to 32-40 at home. "He was pushing the corners all day long. He's been doing that most of the season. He doesn't give a whole lot."

The Cubs' defense backed up the soft-spoken pitcher known as "The Professor," including a stellar play by Jason Heyward, who dove into the right-field seats in the sixth to grab Hazelbaker's foul ball.

Statcast: Heyward's crowd dive

Monday marked the first time since Sept. 25, 1995, that the Cardinals were held to one hit by the Cubs. In that game, Bernard Gilkey broke up Frank Castillo's no-hit bid with two outs in the ninth.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Zorilla: Ben Zobrist entered Monday's game hitless in his last three games, but that ended when he led off the Cubs' second with his 15th home run. According to Statcast™, the ball had an exit velocity of 102.8 mph and traveled an estimated 422 feet, his longest of the season. He now has 15 home runs, the most since he hit 20 with the Rays in 2012.

"It's a big thing to win in this division, but it's just a stepping stone," Zobrist said. "For us as a team, we really want to do much more than win the division. It's the first step toward accomplishing our overall goal this season."

Zobrist's solo homer

Playing spoiler: Hazelbaker not only foiled Hendricks' no-hit bid with his 12th home run, he snapped an 0-for-16 streak. Prior to the hit, Hazelbaker had been 1-for-25 when putting an 0-2 pitch in play. The homer, which was the team's NL-leading 205th of the season, prevented the Cardinals from being no-hit in St. Louis for the first time since 1906. There has still never been a no-hitter thrown at Busch Stadium III.

"You just want to break it up," Hazelbaker said. "That's what you want to do. But at the same time, you don't want to go to the plate thinking, 'This guy has a no-hitter.' You're thinking about what your plan is, what your approach is and what you're going to do in that at-bat. That stuff you have to leave in the dugout when you go out there and go out there with a game plan." More >

Glovework: Jhonny Peralta led off the Cardinals' sixth with a hard-hit ball to shortstop Addison Russell, who was able to stop it and make the throw in time to first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Hazelbaker then lofted a ball into foul territory in right, but that didn't stop Jason Heyward from diving into the first row of seats and making the catch. Second baseman Javier Baez went over to check on Heyward and signaled that the catch had been made.

"I realized it was a no-hitter in the fifth, and then I saw Peralta hit the ball in the hole and Addy made a great play, and I was like, 'These are the things that happen in a no-hitter,'" Cubs catcher Miguel Montero said. More >

Statcast: Russell's strong throw

Leaking: After five consecutive starts without allowing a home run, the Cardinals' Mike Leake served up two in Monday's loss. Zobrist's blast put Leake behind in the second, and he later served up a two-run homer to Dexter Fowler. In his second start back from shingles, Leake lasted six innings, but also allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits.

"I feel like I have good energy and I'm there," Leake said. "It's just a matter of getting better."

QUOTABLE
"He wasn't overpowering anybody. He's a pitcher. He located his fastball, he gets hitters off balance, and he's fun to watch. You can see from last year to this year how he's been getting better every single outing. He's the best-prepared guy every time before he takes the mound. He prepares better than anybody I've caught in my career. He's got a pretty good feel for the hitters." -- Montero, on Hendricks

"It's still baseball, even though we lost today. Any time something like that is happening, it's still nice to be a part of." -- Leake, on having some appreciation for an opponent nearly completing a no-hitter

INJURY REPORT
Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter exited the game after his back tightened up during a seventh-inning at-bat. Matheny received "good reports" from the medical staff after the game, an indication that the injury is not considered serious.

WHAT'S NEXT
Cubs: Jason Hammel will make his 28th start of the season on Tuesday. In his last outing, he gave up a career-high 13 hits over 5 2/3 innings against the Brewers. The right-hander is 4-4 with a 4.80 ERA in 10 starts against the Cardinals, three of which have come this season. First pitch will be at 7:15 p.m. CT from Busch Stadium.

Cardinals: The Cardinals will try to even the series on Tuesday behind left-hander Jaime Garcia, who is seeking his own bounceback performance after four straight starts. Garcia, who has a 4.19 ERA at home this year, has a career 2.27 ERA in eight appearances (seven starts) against the Cubs.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.