CHICAGO -- After sweeping the Cardinals at Wrigley Field, what's the Cubs' theme for their next road trip? It's may be cliche, but it's "one game at a time." Chicago manager Joe Maddon and his players weren't giddy or gloating after winning their sixth in a row on Sunday, an intense 4-3 victory that sent St. Louis to six games back in the National League Central.
"We're just going one at a time, one game at a time, especially where we're at," said Kyle Schwarber, who hit his 27th home run in the win. "We're taking it day by day, pitch by pitch."
Jason Heyward smacked a clutch tiebreaking RBI single with two outs in the seventh inning, and the bullpen did the rest. The crowd of 39,498 held its collective breath as Dexter Fowler flied out to deep center against Wade Davis for the final out. Fowler had hit a three-run homer to tie the game in the sixth, but the wind had shifted by the ninth.
"I did [think it was out]," Maddon said of Fowler's ball in the ninth. "Then I looked up and, 'Oh, the flags.' Thank you."
"I thought it was off the scoreboard," said Davis, who instead remained perfect with 31 saves in 31 chances. "I thought it was for sure gone. I looked to the third-base dugout and saw the fans yelling. I thought, 'Oh, my goodness.'"
The Cubs are a season-high 17 games over .500 and 11-4 against the Cardinals this season with four more games between them, Sept. 25-28, at Busch Stadium. The second-place Brewers remain four games back in the NL Central after their win over the Marlins on Sunday.
In the NL Wild Card race, St. Louis trails Milwaukee by two games and Colorado by 4 1/2.
"We're not officially eliminated, so until that comes, we have to do everything we can to grind it out and figure out how to win games," said Cardinals starter Lance Lynn, who allowed three runs on five hits in four innings. "We got beat this series. They beat us. We didn't give away games, we got beat."
Schwarber went deep in the fourth, sandwiched between two Ben Zobrist RBIs as the Cubs opened a 3-0 lead behind Jose Quintana, but Fowler tied the game against his former teammates with a three-run homer off Quintana with two outs in the sixth.
Matt Carpenter started the inning with a double to left on a ball Schwarber misjudged and couldn't chase down. Quintana walked Paul DeJong between a pair of strikeouts before Fowler spoiled what had been one of his best starts since joining the North Siders.
What happened to Schwarber on the Carpenter ball?
"I was giving it everything I got and obviously came up short," Schwarber said. "That's a ball I want to catch, personally. I felt terrible when Dexter hit that home run. … [Heyward] got the big hit there. That was perfect timing and exactly what we needed at that time."
"It was a different ballgame," Fowler said of the mood swing after his homer. "But they came back fighting and put pressure on us right away."
With the game tied at 3 in the seventh, Tyler Lyons hit Anthony Rizzo with a pitch, although the umpires had to review to make sure. Pinch-hitter Javier Baez then singled, and one out later, Lyons (4-1) was lifted for Matt Bowman to face pinch-hitter Ian Happ. Bowman got Happ to hit a potential double play ball, but the Cardinals could only get the force at second. Heyward worked Bowman to a 3-2 count, then lined a single to left to score Rizzo.
The Cubs' relievers came through with clutch performances, including Brian Duensing, who struck out Carpenter to leave the bases loaded in the eighth.
"Both teams wanted to win the game, both sides pitched really well," Maddon said. "It was just an intense, intense baseball game."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Momentum shift: The Cubs' defense contributed to a mess in the fourth. Tommy Pham singled to lead off and Quintana then struck out DeJong. Jose Martinez reached on a single that center fielder Albert Almora Jr. dived for but couldn't corral, and Fowler was safe on a fielding error by third baseman Kris Bryant to load the bases. But Quintana got Yadier Molina to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat. Schwarber then led off the Chicago half with his home run.
"These are the kinds of games that are swayed by a big hit," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, whose club finished the series 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position. "We did have some opportunities; it just didn't happen. I've said it before -- [it's] easier said than done because you have guys making big pitches. In those situations, they're not giving you anything."
Relief:Carl Edwards Jr. replaced Quintana and struck out Randal Grichuk to strand two runners in the sixth. With the game tied at 3 in the seventh, the Cardinals had runners at second and third with two outs, but Pedro Strop got Martinez to ground out and end the inning, which got a fist pump from the reliever.
"I think we've been feeding off each other a little bit, especially today," Duensing said. "Today was a high-emotion-type game. That's a big win."
"Tomorrow's an off-day. I'm taking the boys out to Ava [Maddon's restaurant] -- whoever wants to show up. I'm going to ride my bike on Bayshore two consecutive days. We'll play the Rays. That's all I'm concerned about." -- Maddon, whose club is heading to St. Petersberg, when asked whether he's looking ahead to upcoming series vs. the Brewers and Cardinals
"I had my best fastball velocity of the year. You see as the season goes on, you feel stronger and stronger and you start pitching with stuff that you didn't know you had, and that's something that I have to corral and learn how to use again. I haven't had it for a year and a half or two years, so I have to figure out how to use it again." -- Lynn, on finding the feel for his command in his first season back from Tommy John surgery
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Cardinals finished with a 1-8 record at Wrigley Field this season, their worst winning percentage (.111) at the ballpark since 1918, when they went 0-9.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
With two outs in the third, Bryant was safe on an infield single that the Cardinals challenged, saying third baseman Carpenter made the throw in time. After a review, the safe call was confirmed. Rizzo then walked to load the bases, but Lynn struck out Alex Avila to end the inning.
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals: The Cardinals will spend an off-day in Cincinnati on Monday before opening a three-game series against the Reds at 6:10 p.m. CT on Tuesday. Rookie Jack Flaherty will be making his fourth career start, still seeking his first win. Flaherty allowed three runs over 4 1/3 innings against the Reds last week.
Cubs: After an off-day on Monday, the Cubs face the Rays in a two-game Interleague set, starting Tuesday. Jon Lester will get things started, making his 30th career start against the Rays, tied for his most against an opponent. He has a 13-10 career record vs. Tampa Bay. First pitch from Tropicana Field is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. CT.