Starlin Castro hit two home runs and tied a career high with six RBI to power the Cubs to a 8-3 victory over the Cardinals Friday at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs opened a three-game series with St. Louis Friday trailing the Cardinals by seven games in the National League Central with 16 to play. It’s a significant gap to cover in that short of time, but the Cubs aren’t about to rule it out.
“Anything is possible,’’ National League rookie of the year candidate Kris Bryant said.
Castro’s tie-breaking two-run homer in the fifth inning gave the Cubs a 5-3 lead and his three-run shot in the sixth — tying his career-high with six RBI — made it 8-3. Castro also singled in a run in the first.
The Cubs will likely play the Pittsburgh Pirates in the one-game wild card playoff. They trail the Pirates, whom they took three of four games from in their just-completed four-game series in Pittsburgh, by two games for home field advantage in the wild card game Oct. 7.
But that’s not a satisfactory goal.
“Listen, no, no, no,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. “We’re trying to surpass them [St. Louis]. First we have to get Pittsburgh. Then we have to go after them. I don’t anybody is just thinking ‘let’s just make the playoffs’ or ‘let’s just be a wild card team.’ I don’t want that kind of thought at all, that’s the kind of thought that gets you in trouble. You keep shooting for the top ladder. You keep going for it, and that’s what I want to be our focus and if you talk to anyone in the room I’m sure you’ll get the same response from them.”
Bryant, who was not in the starting lineup Friday, confirmed that.
“We went on our run earlier, in August. We can definitely do that again,’’ he said. “We have to control what we control and how we play. They’re here for three games, hopefully we can scrape some wins out. It sure would be nice to win the division.’’
Castro (3-for-3) also singled in the Cubs’ three-run in first against Cardinals right-hander Lance Lynn, who walked three Cubs in the inning, also allowed an RBI single to Anthony Rizzo and an RBI double to Tommy La Stella. Castro’s second homer came with two runners on against Cardinals right-hander Steve Cishek. It was the third career multi-homer game for the second baseman.
The Cardinals tied the game at 3 with two runs in the third and a bases-loaded walk in the fifth by Cubs lefty Zac Rosscup.
Castro’s first homer, to left-center field, came against right-hander Seth Maness.
Bryant, who is hitting .274 with 24 homers and 93 RBI, did not start as Maddon kept his interchangeable parts in motion, but he entered as a pinch hitter in the sixth and grounded out.
“Days off for our bodies, to kind of get ready for hopefully a postseason,’’ Bryant said.
“I feel great. Off days are good, especially after a long road trip, and if you want to be fresh.’’
Cardinals right-hander Matt Belisle was ejected by plate umpire Dan Bellino after he hit Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo with a pitch on the leg during the seventh inning.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was also thrown out. Matheny and Maddon were issued warnings by Bellino after Cubs starter Dan Haren hit Matt Holliday in the helmet during the fifth. Rizzo, who has been hit by a pitch 29 times this season, was hit by Tyler Lyons during the fourth inning.
Haren was lifted after he hit Holliday. Six Cubs relievers then combined on 4 2/3 innings of scoreless ball to keep the Cardinals (92-55) in check. The Cubs improved to 86-61.
NOTES: Maddon is still undecided on Saturday’s starter. Travis Wood, Clayton Richard, Trevor Cahill and C.J. Edwards are all possibilities to match up against the Cardinals’ Michael Wacha (16-5, 2.96).
“We have to play today’s game first, try to win this one and then we’ll figure it out,’’ Maddon said. “There are options. We have not told anybody they’re getting the ball tomorrow.’’
*Maddon defended Chris Coghlan’s slide into second base that ended Pirates second baseman Jung Ho Kang’s season. Coghlan was breaking up a double play.
“Anybody that wants to go there, you don’t know the game at all,” Maddon said.
“That was just a hard play and it’s unfortunate he got injured.”
*The outfield sod was replaced after Tuesday’s AC/DC concert. Rain since then hasn’t helped, and it remained to be seen how the surface would play. Groundskeepers were using squeegee’s and heavy rollers on the grass an hour before the game.