Cubs put the lock on Wrigley Field with another late-game loss to Cards

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • St. Louis Cardinals catcher Andrew Knizner scores on a wild pitch from Cubs relief pitcher Codi Heuer during the ninth inning of the last game of the season at Wrigley Field on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. The St. Louis Cardinals won 4-2.

    St. Louis Cardinals catcher Andrew Knizner scores on a wild pitch from Cubs relief pitcher Codi Heuer during the ninth inning of the last game of the season at Wrigley Field on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. The St. Louis Cardinals won 4-2. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 9/26/2021 7:16 PM

There was just no chance the Cubs' final home game of the season would bring a happy ending. Not after everything that's happened in the past six months.

So even though the Cubs took a 2-1 lead into the eighth inning, they let it get away as St. Louis stretched its win streak to 16 in a row with a 4-2 win, closing the doors on Wrigley Field in 2021.

 

The Cubs still have six games remaining, with series left in Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

The best news for the Cubs on Sunday was the 1-2 punch of pitchers Keegan Thompson and Adbert Alzolay. They allowed just 1 run in nearly 7 innings. Both could be in next year's starting rotation or a key piece for the bullpen.

Thompson struck out seven in the first 3 innings, giving up a long home run to Paul Goldschmidt. Thompson struggled since coming back to the majors and becoming a starter, but this outing was a reminder he can be really good when on his game.

"I think today was definitely the best start I've had since I was brought back up," Thompson said. "We worked on a lot just mentally and working on mechanics and getting healthy again. So I think we spent a couple weeks getting that sorted out and it kind of showed today.

"Having a good outing today kind of put me back in my place and let me know that I can start here."

After starting for most of the year, the Cubs put Alzolay in the bullpen just to limit his workload. He's posted a 1.56 ERA in September, which raised the possibility of keeping him a weapon in the bullpen.

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"I think the big key is I've been attacking the hitters from pitch one, knowing these are my strengths right away, these are the pitches that are working right away," Alzolay said. "So I've been going out there and attacking the hitter with those pitches. I think that's what's making a really nice difference right now."

Alzolay said he's also learned about how to have success against left-handed hitters, which was a downfall for most of the season.

"I feel I'm making the adjustment against lefties that I needed to make," he said. "I feel like lately it's been paying off. That makes me feel good. Now I know I have different weapons to attack the lefties too. It doesn't have to be just one or two pitches only."

The Cubs scored twice in the fourth inning and held the 2-1 lead until two outs in the eighth inning when Harrison Bader tied it with a home run off Rowan Wick.

The Cardinals scored twice in the ninth off Codi Heuer on 2 walks, 2 bunts, a wild pitch and bouncer to the mound.

There was a strange play in the bottom of the ninth, accentuated by sloppy Cubs baserunning. After a pair of walks, runners were on first and second with one out. Frank Schwindel hit a pop up toward third base, an obvious infield fly rule call.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado chased the ball into foul territory, then slipped and it landed fair. At that point, Schwindel was out and the runners didn't have to do anything.

But the Cubs' runners took off. The Cardinals picked up the ball and got a couple of phantom force plays that didn't count. The problem was Rafael Ortega, after touching second, kept jogging off the base and was tagged. Technically, he should have been out because he strayed from the base.

But since the second base umpire incorrectly called Ortega out on the attempted force play, he then called time out and waved off the tag. That prompted an argument and ejection of St. Louis manager Mike Schildt.

Once play resumed, Ian Happ struck out to end the game, so none of it mattered.

Patrick Wisdom was scratched from Sunday's lineup due to a sore right wrist, the result of a checked swing in Saturday's game. Nico Hoerner missed his second straight game with what was called general soreness.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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