The St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs began an important three-game series last night in St. Louis. On paper it looked like a chance for St. Louis to expand its lead in the division.

47,601 people crowded into Busch Stadium on a beautiful 72-degree evening hoping to see their beloved St. Louis Cardinals defeat the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs. In a series which will help define the state of or even the existence of the race for the Central Division in the National League, St. Louis needed to take game one. With Mike Leake, 4-1 coming into the game, on the mound facing Triple-A call-up Eddie Butler, the Cards were poised for victory.

But as is customary in baseball, the expected did not occur. Leake (4-2, 1.94 ERA, 0.99 WHIP) gave up two solo home runs to Willson Contreras (.228 BA, 4 HR, 15 RBI). Leake had only surrendered one home run in his six previous starts. Eddie Butler (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.83 WHIP)  threw six shutout innings in his first start for the Cubs after entering the game with a career record of 6-16.

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The Chicago Cubs, playing without their leading hitter Kris Bryant (stomach bug) (.299 BA, 7 HR, 18 RBI) parlayed six hits into three runs. Three of their six hits were home runs, with Tommy La Stella (.286 BA, 1 HR, 2 RBI) hitting his first of the year off Brett Cecil (0-1, 5.79 ERA, 1.93 WHIP) in the seventh inning. The Cardinals used a Randall Grichuk (.230 BA, 4 HR, 15 RBI) solo home run off Carl Edwards, Jr. (1-0, 1.17 ERA, 0.78 WHIP) in the seventh to cut the margin to 3-1.

The Perfect Closer

Wade Davis (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, 8 SV) came in to close out the game for Chicago in the bottom of the ninth.  The Cardinals actually scored a run off Davis and had the tying run on second base when pinch hitter Matt Adams (.304 BA, 1 HR, 7 RBI) struck out to end the game. Kolten Wong (.259 BA, 1 HR, 13 RBI) swung and missed for the would-be third out one batter earlier. But after dropping the third strike, Willson Contreras through wildly to first base, allowing Wong to reach second and Randall Grichuk to score the Cardinals’ second run.

Now the Cardinals must find a way to beat either John Lester (1-1, 3.27 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) or Jake Arrieta (4-2, 5.35 ERA, 1.47 WHIP) to salvage a game in the series. St. Louis will counter with Carlos Martinez (2-3, 3.86 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) and Adam Wainwright (2-3, 6.37 ERA, 1.87 WHIP). If they don’t, the Cubs will leave St. Louis ahead of the Cards in the standings. But with baseball being baseball, just when it looks like you know what to expect, something else will happen.

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