Over the last month, Kwang Hyun Kim has quietly been one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. Kim hadn’t allowed a run since June 30 and hadn’t allowed more than 1 run in a game since June 25. This included his last start against the Giants. Despite only striking out 1 batter, Kim had pitched 6 shutout innings in a win against San Francisco. All in all, Kim hoped to continue to lower his 2.87 ERA on Thursday, his 33rd birthday.
Kim would face the Cubs, whose season has been in flux as of late. As stars such as Craig Kimbrel and Javier Baez’s contracts expire at the end of the year, rumors have been swirling of the Cubs selling at the upcoming trade deadline. This includes Kris Bryant as well, who in addition to the rumors, had also been dealing with an injured hamstring.
St. Louis Jumps to an Early Lead
After winning in walk-off fashion the night before, the Cardinals hit the ground running. In the bottom of the 1stinning, Dylan Carlson led off the game with a solo home run off of Cubs’ starter Adbert Alzolay. It looked as though Alzolay’s rough start would continue as the next batter, Paul Goldschmidt walked. However, Alzolay forced a fly-out, then struck out the next 2 hitters to limit the damage to only 1 run in the 1st.
Carlson continued to give Alzolay trouble, as he doubled to left in the 3rd inning. 2 batters later, Nolan Arenado drove him home, as he blasted a 2-run homer to center field. Arenado’s 19th home run of the season gave St. Louis a 3-0 lead.
Kwang Hyun Kim Stays Dominant
Kwang Hyun Kim continued his hot streak, nearly retiring the first 11 Cubs. The only hitter that reached up to that point was on a throwing error by Cardinals’ shortstop Edmundo Sosa. The Cubs were finally able to breakthrough in the 4th inning. A walk by Patrick Wisdom, followed by a base hit from Báez gave Jake Marisnick an RBI opportunity. Marisnick put the Cubs on the board with a double that scored Wisdom and Báez and made it 3-2.
Even though Kim’s shutout streak had ended, he still had an excellent start. In his 6 innings of work, that 4thinning was the only one in which Kim had faced more than the minimum 3 batters. In fact, the Cardinals’ lefty struck out at least one Cub in all 6 innings. Before being relieved in the 7th, this gave Kim a total of 7 strikeouts, only allowing 2 runs on 2 hits.
Bullpen Shuts Down the Cubs
The Cardinals’ bullpen was just as good as Kwang Hyun Kim. In the 7th, Ryan Helsley pitched for St. Louis. Helsley quickly forced both Báez and Marisnick to pop out. Although Rafael Ortega did get a 2-out base hit, Helsey was able to prevent him from scoring with a Nico Hoerner fly-out.
T.J. McFarland was in charge of the 8th inning. Despite walking Kris Bryant to begin the frame, McFarland only faced 3 Cubs. This was because he forced Robinson Chirinos to ground into a double play before striking out Willson Contreras.
All-Star closer Alex Reyes handled the 9th. He quickly got the first 2 outs, as Anthony Rizzo grounded out and Wisdom retired on strikes. Reyes did walk Báez, the tying run, but he then proved why he’s been one of 2021’s best closers. Reyes struck out Marisnick in 3 pitches securing his 23rd save of the season, and the win for the Cardinals.
Starting Friday, the Cubs will return home. They will host a 3-game series at Wrigley Field against the Diamondbacks, then a 4-game series against the Reds.
The Cardinals will soon begin a tour of Ohio. They will visit Cincinnati on Friday to play 3 games against the Reds. After an off-day on Monday, the Redbirds will flock up north to play 2 games in Cleveland against the Indians.