Nootbaar’s game-ending single lifts Cardinals over Cubs 4-3

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ST. LOUIS — Lars Nootbaar hit a tying sacrifice fly in the seventh inning and a game-ending RBI single in the ninth, sending the St. Louis Cardinals to a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs in the opener of a split doubleheader.

St. Louis trailed 3-0 before rallying in the seventh against Marcus Stroman. Nolan Gorman and Paul Goldschmidt hit back-to-back homers before Nolan Arenado doubled and scored on Nootbaar’s flyball to center.

“When it all clicks, we’re able to string together some quality at-bats,” St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol said. “Those guys there definitely made an adjustment on Stroman and made some really hard contact. Classic third time through the lineup.”

Arenado and Paul DeJong walked with one out in the ninth against rookie Erich Uelmen (0-1). Nootbaar then drove in Arenado with a liner to right on a 2-2 pitch.

“He’s taking some really professional at-bats,” Marmol said about Nootbaar. “He’s making a lot of hard contact. He’s confident in what he’s doing right now.”

Nootbaar said he thought Arenado would be able to score the winning run. Arenado’s slide beat the tag by catcher Willson Contreras.

“He’s not the fleetest afoot. I’d never seen him move that fast before,” Nootbaar said with a laugh. “But he’s a smart baserunner. I had a pretty good idea he would score there. I made him run a little harder than he needed to. I owe him.”

Ryan Helsley (6-1) got three outs for the win, helping the Cardinals pull within a half-game of Milwaukee for the NL Central lead.

Contreras homered for Chicago, which dropped its fourth straight game. Stroman was charged with three runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings.

“I thought he had command of both sides of the plate. He was sharp,” manager David Ross said. “It was a really nice performance today I thought.”

The doubleheader was scheduled after Wednesday night’s game was postponed by rain. St. Louis improved to 5-2 in its four doubleheaders this season, and Chicago dropped to 1-8 in its five doubleheaders.

Contreras, who was the subject of trade rumors ahead of Tuesday’s deadline, hit a solo drive in the first for his 15th homer.

“I just wanted that to be over and clear my mind to play baseball,” Contreras said of the deadline. “I need to keep my focus on baseball and I don’t have to worry about something else any more. It feel more relaxed. It took a lot of weight off my shoulders.”

The Cubs added two more in the sixth against Miles Mikolas. Contreras doubled and scored on Seiya Suzuki‘s single, and Patrick Wisdom added a sacrifice fly.

Mikolas allowed seven hits, struck out six and waked one in 6 1/3 innings.

Rafael Ortega had three hits for Chicago, and Nico Hoerner went 2 for 4.

LONG BALL

The Cardinals have homered in 12 straight games for the majors’ second-longest active streak behind the Yankees (19). St. Louis has hit multiple home runs in six straight games for the longest active streak in MLB.

LONDON CALLING

Major League Baseball announced that the Cardinals and Cubs will play a two-game series in London in June.

ROSTER MOVES

Cubs: LHP Matt Dermody was recalled from Triple-A Iowa to serve as the 27th man for the split doubleheader. Dermody, 32, is 6-3 with a 3.74 ERA in 20 games (13 starts) for Iowa this season. … INF David Bote was optioned to Iowa to create a roster spot for LHP Sean Newcomb, who was slated to start the second game.

Cardinals: Added RHP James Naile as the 27th player for the doubleheader. Naile relieved Mikolas in the seventh and got two outs.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cubs: INF Andrelton Simmons (right shoulder strain) went 1 for 3 with a home run and walk in a rehab game for Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday. … LHP Wade Miley (left shoulder strain) threw 49 pitches in 2 1/3 innings Wednesday for Iowa. He gave up three runs and five hits.

Cardinals: RHP Drew VerHagen (right hip impingement) will have hip surgery soon. … LHP Steven Matz (torn left MCL) will not need season-ending surgery and instead will rehab. There is no timetable on when he will be back.

UP NEXT

Cubs: It’s the first big league start for Newcomb (0-0, 11.57 ERA) since Aug. 10, 2020, for Atlanta at Philadelphia. On Friday, LHP Justin Steele (4-7, 3.86 ERA) will make his 20th start of the season in the opener of a three-game series against Miami.

Cardinals: LHP Jose Quintana (3-5, 3.50 ERA) starts the second game of the doubleheader. Quintana was acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh on Monday. On Friday, RHP Dakota Hudson (6-6, 4.10 ERA) will square off against New York Yankees LHP Nestor Cortes (9-3, 2.53 ERA) in the opener of a three-game set.

Braves sweep Mets, take 2-game lead in East with 3 remaining

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ATLANTA — Matt Olson knew the Atlanta Braves were too talented to stay in a season-long slump.

That’s why no one panicked when the New York Mets’ division lead swelled to double digits in May. Now the Braves are on the cusp of another NL East title.

“It’s a clubhouse full of guys who want to win,” Olson said. “That’s all it’s been since the moment I walked in. That’s No. 1 on the program.”

Dansby Swanson and Olson homered for the third straight game, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning, and Braves beat New York 5-3 on Sunday night, completing a three-game sweep of their NL East rival and taking a two-game lead in the division with three games to play.

The defending World Series champion Braves have been chasing the Mets the entire season. In the final series of the season, any combination of one Atlanta win or one Mets loss would give the Braves their fifth straight division title.

New York plays its final three games of the season against worst-in-the-majors Washington. Atlanta closes out the regular season with a three-game set in Miami. Should the season end Wednesday in a tie, Atlanta would win the division after claiming the season series 10-9 with Sunday’s victory.

“We’ve felt this confidence since the beginning of the year,” d’Arnaud said. “It just didn’t go our way early in the year, but pulling on the same rope, having each others’ backs, not trying to do too much. We’re just trying to play the game of baseball and have fun with it.”

The Braves won five of the last six games in the series, outscoring the Mets 42-19 over that stretch. New York had a 10 1/2-game lead on June 1 but now is the lower in the standings than at any point this season.

It was a lost weekend for New York, which came to Atlanta hoping to clinch its first division title since 2015. Instead, aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer lost Friday and Saturday before Chris Bassitt lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday.

“We still have three games left in the regular season, we’re still going to the postseason, that doesn’t change, but there’s a lot of learning points that we can take from this series moving forward,” Mets slugger Pete Alonso said. “I thought we played well, but the Braves played better. They played excellent baseball this entire weekend.”

Swanson took Bassitt deep to right-center in the first with his 25th homer, and Atlanta took charge with a three-run third. Bassitt (15-9) issued a bases-loaded walk to Olson before d’Arnaud delivered a single up the middle to score Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley for a 4-3 lead. That chased Bassitt, who was charged with four runs, three hits and three walks.

Olson connected for his 33rd homer to make it 5-3 leading off the sixth, his 410-foot shot landing in the seats in right-center. Olson, in his first year with Atlanta, surpassed 100 RBIs for the second straight season.

“Everyone knew we were underperforming when we were flirting around that .500 range,” Olson said. “It was one of those things where it was trusting the talent we have and the guys in the clubhouse. Everybody was solid, head down, do your work, it’ll turn around and you wind up winning.”

Charlie Morton stranded runners on first and second in the first, but he gave up Daniel Vogelbach‘s 18th homer that tied it at 1 in the second. The righty struck out Francisco Lindor with runners on first and second to end the threat.

Jeff McNeil went deep off Morton in the third and Vogelbach followed with an RBI single to put the Mets up 3-1. Morton entered the game having allowed 28 homers, sixth-most in the NL.

Morton scuffled throughout his start, giving up three runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings as the 38-year-old made his first start since signing a $20 million, one-year contract to remain with Atlanta next season.

Dylan Lee (5-1) relieved Morton and pitched 1 1/3 innings, leaving after a walk to Brandon Nimmo with two outs in the sixth. Collin McHugh entered and struck out Francisco Lindor.

Raisel Iglesias faced four batters in the seventh, A.J. Minter faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen converted his third save of the series with a clean ninth.

Jansen leads the NL with 40 saves in 47 chances.

The Braves’ bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA last month, pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings the last two nights.

BIG NUMBERS

Atlanta leads the NL with 241 homers. And the Braves have their first 100-victory season since 2003.

TWO, DARN HOT

McNeil went 3 for 5 and has multiple hits in five straight games. His average is .326, one point behind the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman for the NL batting title. In 23 career games at Truist Park, McNeil is hitting .395 with 12 runs, nine doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and four walks. … Jansen tied Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for eighth place on the career list with 389. He’s also is the 10th closer to have four different seasons with at least 40 saves.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. … Braves 2B Ozzie Albies (broken right pinky finger) is still wearing a cast. … Braves RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique.

ATTENDANCE

The Braves drew 42,713 in their regular season finale, the club’s 42nd sellout of the season. Overall. that’s 3,129,931 for the season – and the most tickets sold since 2000. In 2019, the team’s last full season before the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta drew 2,655,100.

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.95 ERA) will face Nationals RHP Cory Abbott (0-4, 5.11).

Braves: RHP Bryce Elder (2-3, 2.76 ERA) will face Marlins LHP Jesus Luzardo (3-7, 3.53).