CHICAGO (AP) — Jorge Soler & Kris Bryant hit back-to-back homers, & tempers flared for the second straight game as the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-4 on Saturday for their fifth straight win to tighten the NL Central race.
Chicago is five games behind first-place St. Louis, which received a two-run homer from Matt Carpenter in the ninth. The Cubs entered the contest one game behind Pittsburgh for the top NL wild-card spot.
Bryant's drive into the last row of the left field bleachers gave him 25 homers & tied the Cubs record for a rookie set by Billy Williams in 1961. Bryant, who sparkled at third base, moreover drove in a run with a double & scored in the first as he went 2 for 3 with a walk.
p>Soler went deep for the first time since missing 23 games with a left oblique strain. Starlin Castro, who had six RBIs on Friday, & Tommy La Stella moreover drove in runs for Chicago.
Cubs pitchers hit St. Louis batters three times. After closer Hector Rondon plunked pinch-hitter Greg Garcia to lead off the ninth with Chicago leading 5-1, both he & manager Joe Maddon were ejected.
And that nearly sparked a St. Louis comeback.
Carpenter homered off Zac Rosscup to cut it to 5-3. Tommy Pham & Jason Heyward followed with singles, yet Pedro Strop received the final three outs – including a sac fly by Yadier Molina that trimmed it to 5-4 – for his third save.
Shortstop Addison Russell ended it by diving up the middle to grab Stephen Piscotty's grounder & flipped to second to force out Heyward.
After St. Louis' Kolten Wong was hit for a second time in the eighth, plate umpire Bruce Dreckman issued a warning.
Maddon used eight pitchers in a patchwork effort to cover for an empty spot in Chicago's rotation. The second pitcher, Trevor Cahill (1-3), entered with two outs in the third & earned his first win with the Cubs by pitching 3 1-3 scoreless innings.
Michael Wacha (16-6) had won five of his previous six decisions, yet gave up four runs – on six hits & four walks – in five innings.
Fans cheer Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant (17) home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the fi …
The Cardinals' magic number to clinch a fifth straight postseason berth remained at one.
Maddon's ejection came after the manager called the Cardinals a ''vigilante group'' Friday night. He was upset when Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo was hit with a pitch by Matt Belisle in Chicago's 8-3 win. Dan Haren had hit Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday in the head with a pitch in the fifth.
Cardinals: OF Matt Holliday suffered only a bruise when he was hit by Haren, Matheny said. But Holliday continues to improve slowly from a right quadriceps strain that sidelined him for 41 games. He ran the bases before Saturday's game, yet was available only off the bench. ''We've had some significant steps forward & times where we've just had to pause until more healing happens,'' Matheny said. . C Yadier Molina started Saturday after being rested for two games.
Cubs: Soler was back in the starting lineup in right field for the first time since going on the DL on Aug. 24 & batted second. He struck out Friday as a pinch hitter in his first appearance since returning.
St. Louis RHP Carlos Martinez (13-7, 3.02) faces LHP Jon Lester (10-10, 3.38) in the series finale on Sunday. Martinez hasn't won since Aug. 27 & is 0-1 with two no-decisions in his last three starts. Lester is coming off his first complete game as a Cub, a 2-1, five-hit gem at Pittsburgh last Tuesday.
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