Cardinals set team record with 15th straight win, beat Cubs

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
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CHICAGO — The St. Louis Cardinals set a franchise record with their 15th straight win, boosted when catcher Yadier Molina and center fielder Harrison Bader helped pull off a wild double play Saturday in an 8-5 win over the Chicago Cubs.

Bader, Tyler O'Neill and Paul DeJong homered as these Cardinals broke the team record of 14 wins in a row set in 1935, a year after Dizzy Dean and the Gas House Gang won the World Series.

Bader went 4 for 4 and scored three times as the Cardinals held their comfortable lead for the second NL wild-card spot — they began the day five games ahead of Philadelphia and six in front of Cincinnati.

And in a charmed final month, St. Louis preserved a late lead with a crazy play that resulted in a pair of rundowns and two outs.

After Nolan Arenado doubled to spark a three-run rally in the seventh, the Cardinals took a 5-4 lead into the eighth at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs quickly threatened when David Bote led off with a triple and Trayce Thompson walked. One out later, with runners still at the corners, Rafael Ortega hit a grounder to first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who threw home to Molina.

After a short rundown, Arenado tagged out Bote. The star third baseman then cut across the diamond to trap Ortega off first. Another rundown ensued, with Molina catching a throw between second and third base before tossing to Bader, who had alertly rushed in join the play and led to Thompson being tagged, too.

The official scoring read like a phone number — 3-2-5-4-2-8-6 — it was the fourth double play of the afternoon for the dialed-in Cards, and kept them ahead by a run.

DeJong hit a two-run drive in the ninth. Ian Happ homered in the bottom half.

Far back in the playoff race heading into September, St. Louis moved closer to clinching a spot by extending its extraordinary streak.

The Cardinals date their history to 1892, when they known as the Browns and joined the National League. They later were called the Perfectos before becoming the Cardinals in the early 20th century.

Dean was among five Hall of Famers on that 1935 team that won 14 straight in July. The Cardinals’ only road wins during that streak came in a doubleheader at Wrigley on July 4 – St. Louis swept a doubleheader at Wrigley on Friday to keep this string going.

Happ drove in three runs for the Cubs, who have lost five straight and nine of 10. The loss snapped Chicago’s streak of seven consecutive winning seasons at Wrigley.

Down 4-2 in the seventh, the Cardinals rallied after Codi Heuer (7-3) replaced starter Adrian Sampson. Arenado led off with a double and Bader hit an RBI single, pointing toward the dugout as he headed to first.

Lars Nootbar’s single tied it and chased Heuer, and DeJong’s sacrifice fly gave the Cardinals the lead.

Bader slid under the tag to score on a wild pitch on a strikeout in the ninth before DeJong homered.

Kwang Hyun Kim (7-7) pitched a scoreless inning for the win.

Cardinals lefty Jon Lester allowed three earned runs in five innings in his first start against his former team since he was traded to St. Louis in July. He went 77-44 with a 3.64 ERA with the Cubs from 2015-20, helping lead them to the 2016 World Series championship. Fans greeted him with applause, and Chicago manager and former catcher David Ross ate dinner with him earlier in the week.

In his last start, Lester earned his 200th career win Monday at Milwaukee. The Cubs honored his milestone on the videoboard Friday.

Lester began the season with Washington, and he lost May 17 in his return to Wrigley Field. He was 2-1 with a 6.50 ERA in three previous career starts against Chicago.

Bader homered in the second inning for his second drive in as many games.

O’Neill tied the game with a solo shot in the fourth. It was his 32nd homer this season and third in three games. His 11 homers in September lead the majors.

The Cubs retook the lead with a pair of runs in the fourth. An error by Arenado error loaded the bases before Willson Contreras singled in a run.

Lester then walked Happ for a 4-2 Cubs lead. It was the Cardinals’ 29th bases-loaded walk, setting the modern-day record since 1974 and passing the 1999 Seattle Mariners.

The trainer checked on Lester in the fifth after he issued his third walk.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: RHP Justin Miller (right elbow strain) went on the 10-day injured list. RHP Jake Woodford was recalled from Triple-A Memphis to take his spot. Woodford was optioned to Memphis after Friday’s doubleheader. SS Edmundo Sosa (right hand/wrist) was out of the lineup after he was hit by a pitch Friday. He is expected to miss up to five games, manager Mike Shildt said. CF Dylan Carlson was out of the lineup for rest. He pinch hit in the seventh.

Cubs: INF Nico Hoerner (general soreness) was scratched from the lineup. Sergio Alcantara started in his place.

UP NEXT

Woodford (3-3, 3.92 ERA) will start for the Cardinals against the Cubs and RHP Keegan Thompson (3-3, 3.40) in Sunday’s series finale.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.