ST. LOUIS — Dexter Fowler had a flair for the dramatics during his two seasons with the Chicago Cubs, from game-winning home runs early in his first year at Colorado to the leadoff blast in Game 7 of the World Series in 2016.
The St. Louis Cardinals outfielder was up to his old theatrics early Monday morning, putting the finishing touch on a Cardinals sweep of the Cubs with a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the 14th inning.
Fowler’s game winner lifted St. Louis to a 4-3 victory over Chicago, doing so in a twice rain-delayed game that appeared to be all but finished when Javier Baez put the Cubs up by a run with his solo home run in the top of the 14th.
That is, until Fowler reminded his old teammates of the excitement they’ve been missing since he departed Chicago following its World Series championship in favour of a four-year contract in St. Louis.
“It’s always something special if you do it against them,” Fowler said.
The victory was the Cardinals’ fifth straight, matching their season-best winning streak. It also improved St. Louis to 4-1 on the season against the rival Cubs, a year after Chicago won 14 of the 19 games between the two.
After Chicago took a 3-2 lead on Baez’s solo shot in the top of the 14th, Luke Farrell (1-2) struck out the first two Cardinals batters he faced before allowing an infield single to Harrison Bader. Fowler then lifted a 2-2 pitch down the right-field line and just over the glove of Chicago outfielder Jason Heyward.
“I said to myself, ‘If you catch this, I’m going to cry,’” Fowler said. “He jumped and I though he caught it. So I stopped. Then, I saw it bounce and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ Words can’t even explain it.”
Mike Mayers (1-0) earned the win in relief for St. Louis, allowing one run in three innings. The Cardinals bullpen allowed only three hits in 8 2/3 innings.
The loss was the season-high fifth straight for Chicago, the team’s worst losing stretch since a six-game skid in late May last season. The Cubs have now failed to score more than three runs in 10 of their last 11 games.
“We’re just not hitting the ball,” Chicago manager Joe Maddon said. “We’re just not scoring any runs. The pitching, obviously, has been good enough to have a really good streak going on, but we’ve been void of contact.”
The game, which ended at nearly 1 a.m. local time, was delayed twice by rain, a 30-minute delay in the first inning and then 29 minutes during the third. It was also matched the longest game between the Cubs and Cardinals in nearly 12 years, equaling a 14-inning Chicago win over St. Louis on June 2, 2006.
“I can’t think of one more exciting,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Both starting pitchers fared well despite the start-and-stops. Michael Wacha allowed one earned run in 5 1/3 innings for the Cardinals, and Jon Lester overcame four walks to allow two runs in 5 1/3 innings for the Cubs.
A night after hitting the game-ending home run in St. Louis’ win over Chicago, Kolten Wong ended something else. The second baseman hit a game-tying triple in the sixth inning on Sunday, giving the Cardinals their first triple of the season after 31 games without one. The season-opening stretch was the longest in franchise history, surpassing St. Louis’ 2015 start of 15 games without a triple.
Cardinals: St. Louis put catcher Yadier Molina and reliever Dominic Leone on the 10-day disabled list on Sunday, recalling Carson Kelly and Mayers from Triple-A Memphis. Molina is expected to miss at least four weeks after being hit in the groin by a foul tip on Saturday, and Leone is out after leaving Friday’s game with upper arm nerve irritation. … Center fielder Tommy Pham pinch hit in in the sixth inning of Sunday’s game — a day after being removed from a game with lingering hip abductor injury. …. Closer Bud Norris missed the series finale with a triceps injury after being taken out of Saturday’s game, and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he’ll be revaluated in 2-3 days with hopes of keeping him off the disabled list.
Cubs: Chicago returns home to open a six-game, seven-day homestand on Monday, beginning with a visit from the Miami Marlins. Kyle Hendricks starts for the Cubs, having allowed more than three runs in a start only once this season and sporting a 3.19 ERA.
Cardinals: John Gant gets his first start of the season when St. Louis begins a two-game series with visiting Minnesota on Monday night. The appearance will be the first for the right-hander since being called up from Triple-A Memphis on April 26th, and it comes in place of the injured Adam Wainwright — who will make a rehab start at Double-A Springfield also on Monday night.