ST. LOUIS -- Thanks to one swing in the ninth inning by Jeremy Hazelbaker, Mal Eason's place in St. Louis baseball history remains secure for at least for one more day.
A right-hander whose Major League career spanned six seasons with teams nicknamed the Superbas, Orphans, Tigers and Beaneaters, Eason was nearly bumped from the history books by Cubs Cy Young candidate Kyle Hendricks on Monday. But it wasn't to be. Though the Cardinals took a costly 4-1 loss to the Cubs, they would not be held hitless, as Hazelbaker launched a home run that foiled Hendricks' no-hit bid, chased him from the game and left Eason standing as the last pitcher to no-hit the Cardinals in St. Louis.
"Everybody knows what's going on," Hazelbaker said. "You just want to break it up."
Before Hazelbaker's history-denying swing, the Cardinals' offense had been listless. A day after being stymied by Brewers starter Zach Davies, the Cardinals ran into another starter with a lethal changeup and pinpoint command.
Hendricks eased through eight innings on 93 pitches. He had walked two and gotten some key assists defensively -- none better than the back-to-back gems by shortstop Addison Russell and right fielder Jason Heyward in the sixth.
"He's a guy who myself and others can learn from," said Cards starter Mike Leake. "He repeats very well. He's very good at pitching right now. He's locating well. He's throwing the right pitches. And it's paying off for him."
All that stood between Hendricks and the Cubs' second no-hitter of 2016 was the eighth, ninth and top spots in the Cardinals' lineup. Hazelbaker was the first to step up in the ninth.
"The one guy I was most afraid was [Hazelbaker] after the sixth inning," Cubs catcher Miguel Montero said. "He can do a lot of different things. He can do a bunt and beat the throw, and he can hit a ball in the hole and beat the throw because he's so fast. I was a little afraid of that. None of the things I was afraid of he did."
After falling behind, 0-2, Hazelbaker anticipated the changeup, a pitch Hendricks had already thrown 35 times on the night. Hendricks' last one was sent 380 feet into the right-field seats. The home run precluded the Cardinals from being no-hit for the ninth time in franchise history and means that Busch Stadium III, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this season, has still not played host to one.
For Hazelbaker, the blast snapped an 0-for-16 skid.
"We didn't care how it happened," manager Mike Matheny said. "We wanted to get something going. Obviously, Jeremy coming through there is something positive in the right direction."
What the homer did not do, though, was avert another loss. And on a night when the Mets were trounced in Washington, the Cardinals couldn't take advantage of an opportunity to jump them in the National League Wild Card standings. Now 32-40 at home, St. Louis remains a half-game behind New York for the second Wild Card spot.
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.