CHICAGO (AP) — Matt Carpenter homered in the 10th inning against Craig Kimbrel in the All-Star closer’s return, and the St. Louis Cardinals regrouped after blowing a late lead to beat the Chicago Cubs 5-4 Thursday night.
Emerging ace Jack Flaherty shut down Chicago over eight innings, and despite a tying three-run rally in the ninth, the Cubs dropped a game behind Milwaukee for the second NL wild card and four games behind St. Louis for first place in the NL Central.
Cubs slugger Anthony Rizzo provided a jolt in his unexpected return from a sprained right ankle, homering in the third inning to tie the game at 1. But Flaherty was spectacular otherwise, pitching three-hit ball while allowing just the one run and striking out eight.
Carpenter homered to deep center field off Kimbrel (0-3), who was activated from the injured list prior to the game after dealing with right elbow inflammation. Carpenter, diminished to a smaller role during a frustrating season, hadn’t homered since Aug. 25.
Giovanny Gallegos pitched a perfect 10th for his first save in two chances. Andrew Miller (5-5) recorded the final two outs in the ninth for the victory.
Chicago fell to third place in the division for the first time since April 27 and no longer holds a playoff spot for the first time since July 3.
Flaherty left after 118 pitches. The right-hander is 6-2 record with a 0.93 ERA in 10 starts since Aug. 1.
The Cubs broke through against closer Carlos Martinez in the ninth. Nicholas Castellanos led off with a walk and advanced to second on Kris Bryant’s single. Kyle Schwarber was called out on strikes, then Ben Zobrist hit an RBI double just inside the right field line. Willson Contreras followed with a slow roller on which Martinez threw late to the plate while Bryant scored from third.
Jason Heyward tied it with a groundout against Miller that scored pinch-runner Javier Báez from third.
Tommy Edman leadoff the fifth with a triple against Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks for the first of his two hits. Harrison Bader followed with an RBI single to snap a 1-1 tie.
The Cardinals took a 4-1 lead with a pair of runs in the sixth. Schwarber bobbled Yadier Molina’s single in left field off Hendricks for a run-scoring error. Bader hit an RBI double off reliever Brad Wieck one out later.
Rizzo left a game against Pittsburgh on Sunday with a sprained right ankle and was expected to be in a walking boot for up to a week. Shortly after the he warmed up in the outfield while team medical personnel looked on, he was inserted into the leadoff spot and tabbed to play first base about 20 minutes before first pitch.
Rizzo hit the first pitch by Flaherty in the third inning into the left field bleachers to tie the score at 1, and fans at Wrigley Field celebrated wildly as he slowly circled the bases.
Cardinals: INF Kolten Wong left the game in the fifth inning because of a left hamstring injury. He is day-to-day.
Cubs: INF Addison Russell was activated after a 10-game absence while in concussion protocol. … Báez (fractured left thumb) was cleared for baseball activities and available to pinch-run with the aid of a protective mitt. … RHP Brandon Kintzler (strained left oblique) was expected to take part in a full bullpen session in the next day or two after he reported no setbacks in a 15-pitch session Wednesday.
St. Louis RHP Michael Wacha (6-7, 4.76) and Chicago RHP Alec Mills (1-0, 3.42) are the scheduled starters Friday. LHP Jose Quintana set to start for Chicago, but his assignment was pushed back to Saturday, when LHP Cole Hamels (fatigued left shoulder) had been scheduled to pitch. Hamels was scratched but hopes to rejoin the rotation next week.