No-hit bid, last week’s ‘magic’ no match for Card tricks as Cubs fall 6-0

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The Cubs called in a magician last week, and a few “abracadabras” later, a slump turned into a 5-1 run against the Mets and Marlins.

But they could have summoned the ghost of Houdini, flown in the Pope, and gotten the second coming of Kyle Schwarber, and it wasn’t going to matter against these guys.

Not these St. Louis Cardinals. Not this year, against these Cubs. Certainly not anytime soon.

“I think the mojo’s still there,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after a 6-0 loss to the National League Central rivals – the Cubs’ eighth loss in 10 meetings with the Cards this year.

“I thought it was [Jon] Lester’s best night by far, the best he’s thrown the baseball all year. His stuff was outstanding, everything was working, fastball, cutter, curve ball, command, in the zone. …”

And yet.

Talk about magic. Even with their $155 million ace retiring 18 consecutive batters at one point — taking a no-hit bid one out deep into the seventh inning – the Cardinals still beat the Cubs for the fifth consecutive time this season.

“We’re right with them again,” said Maddon, whose team trailed 2-0 on a pair of unearned runs when a deluge caused a 1-hour, 16-minute delay in the middle of the eighth inning.

“But we’ve got to prove it. And we’ve got to do it. And maybe two games tomorrow is a good thing.”

A day-night doubleheader with a first game starting at noon, after a rain-lengthened night game?

That’s one way to start a second half for a group that despite its trouble with the Cardinals is on pace for an 88-win season at the halfway mark.

“Don’t take one inning and blow the whole thing up,” Maddon said referring to Edwin Jackson’s ugly, four-run ninth. “I am not discouraged at all.”

If Lester’s dominant outing was the way a $155 million pitcher looks, the sequence in the seventh inning that cost the first two runs was the way a young team with worst-to-first aspirations can look.

Jhonny Peralta’s chopper behind the third-base bag went off rookie All-Star Kris Bryant’s wrist in the seventh for the first hit off Lester. Bryant then followed that with a throwing error on the next play that led to two unearned runs.

And Lester – who had out-hit the Cardinals until then with his first career hit in his 67th at-bat – was tagged with the loss.

“They’ve had our number, I definitely admit that,” Maddon said. “But I’ve been in these moments before with young teams. And I like our guys, a lot.”

Why so much trouble with the Cards?

“They’re a veteran team. They do everything right,” Lester said. “They make the plays when they’re in front of them. They have timely hitting. They understand it takes nine innings to win a game.

“We’re close. We’re close.“

NOTES

–After a brief stop in Arizona to work out, recently signed minor-league free agent Rafael Soriano – the former All-Star closer – reported to Class AA Tennessee to start his Cubs career. Maddon said Soriano might need seven or eight appearances before joining big-league club.

–Right-hander Dallas Beeler was brought in from Iowa to start the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Cardinals. He made two big-league starts last season (four earned runs in 11 innings vs. Washington and Cincinnati).

–Lester’s second-inning hit, which caromed off Lackey and died on the infield grass with no throw, ended his major-league record hitless streak to start a career at 66. His thoughts after the game on it? “Worthless,” he said.

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