Stuck ball aids Cubs’ decisive rally against Cardinals

ST. LOUIS — The strangest play anybody in the Cubs’ clubhouse had seen turned into an important one in the team’s 6-4 victory Thursday against the Cardinals, even if Kyle Schwarber’s big home run overshadowed it two batters later.

‘‘Sometimes you think you’ve seen it all, and then baseball shows you that you haven’t seen it all,’’ right fielder Jason Heyward said.

After pinch hitter Matt Szczur swung through a pitch by Cardinals reliever Brett Cecil leading off the seventh inning, the ball eluded catcher Yadier Molina and Szczur took off for first. He reached safely, and Molina eventually discovered the ball stuck to the front of his chest protector, apparently held there by pine tar.

‘‘That’s new,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘I don’t know if they’ve come out with Velcro on the protectors and it’s just a fuzzy baseball. It was definitely Velcro-ed to his chest.’’

Jon Jay followed with a single before Schwarber homered to give the Cubs a 5-4 lead.

‘‘I’ve never seen that before,’’ said Schwarber, a catcher through his career. ‘‘That’s pretty crazy. I don’t know how that happens.’’

Rotation shuffle

The way the Dodgers have set up their rotation, the Cubs won’t see perennial Cy Young Award favorite Clayton Kershaw in their home-opening series next week.

But the Cubs made sure to rearrange their rotation to match up with the lefty-dominant Dodgers lineup, moving right-hander Jake Arrieta up to pitch Sunday against the Brewers and pushing left-hander Jon Lester to the home opener Monday.

‘‘We’re just going based on handedness,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘This was so obvious, we just couldn’t walk away from it.’’

Because of days off, the move puts Arrieta on his natural fifth day against the predominantly right-handed Brewers. Lester will pitch on his eighth day against the Dodgers and will be followed in the series by right-hander John Lackey and lefty Brett Anderson.

The move also keeps Lester away (for now) from the Brewers, the team that has been most aggressive in trying to exploit his troubles throwing to bases the last two years.

Who’s left?

Maddon said the Cubs have no immediate plans to make a roster move to add a lefty to the bullpen for the series against the Dodgers. They opened the season with left-hander Brian Duensing on the disabled list (back stiffness) and chose to keep an extra bench player.

That leaves Mike Montgomery as the only lefty in the pen. But the two lefty starters — Lester and Anderson — mitigate the need.

‘‘We like [righty Koji] Uehara [against] a lefty,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘I like [righty Justin] Grimm [against] a lefty. And [righty Carl Edwards Jr.’s] cutter’s really good against lefties. I like righties on lefties that get lefties out. I like that a lot, actually.’’

This and that

Reigning National League most valuable player Kris Bryant finished the opening series 0-for-13 with six strikeouts. He reached base once, drawing a walk and scoring during the Cubs’ four-run seventh inning Thursday.

• Heyward, who spent much of the offseason and spring training working on his swing, reached base three times on two singles and a hit-by-pitch. He was 4-for-12 in the series, including two infield hits.

• Cubs starting pitchers went 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 17 innings in the series.

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

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