ST. LOUIS — Just when it looked like the Cubs’ late-September lives couldn’t get any more charmed than they did in Milwaukee, get a tray load of what went down Monday at Busch Stadium.
And don’t forget the extra cheese.
The Cubs won 10-2 to eliminate the rival Cardinals and lower their magic number to one to clinch a second consecutive division title.
But that doesn’t begin to tell the story on a night that went so quickly and thoroughly the Cubs’ way. When Kris Bryant hit a second-inning homer, fireworks began to go off. At Busch Stadium. In St. Louis. For a Cub.
How about the Cards fan Addison Russell befriended after the Cub shortstop kicked the guy’s nachos out of his hand on a dive into the stands for a foul ball.
The fan later was given a fresh tray of nachos by the Cardinals, then another by Russell an inning later.
“Great effort,” pitcher Jon Lester said. “But I don’t understand the other stuff.
“A guy fell into him and got nacho cheese on his arm and now he’s taking pictures and signing autographs. It shows you where our society’s at right now with all that stuff.”
Manager Joe Maddon, who apparently was behind the nacho order delivered by Russell, called it “pretty entertaining.”
As Russell, who said he was “nacho-ed all over,” pointed out, “You don’t get between a man and his nachos.”
The Cubs haven’t had this much fun in St. Louis since, well, pretty much ever. If the clincher comes in the next three days, it’ll be the Cubs’ first title clinch of any kind in St. Louis since 1938.
Even Lester had a good night Monday, which was the most important development of the game for the Cubs.
Lester looked like a question mark for the playoff rotation — much less the front end of it — after four shaky starts since a two-week lat injury.
But staked to a 4-0 lead before he took the mound, Lester pounded the vicinity of the strike zone with a steady diet of fastballs ranging from 91 mph to 94 for six innings that looked as strong as any he had thrown since last month.
“The command could have been a little better, but I’ll take the good right now with that game,” said Lester, who made an effort to get “back to being me” instead of relying as much on scouting reports. “Everything was just a little bit sharper today than it has been in a little while.”
Lester still couldn’t pinpoint the source of his command problems and suggested more work ahead: “I haven’t had stuff like this before so we’ll just figure it out as we go.”
He has one more start, Saturday at home, before a potential Game 1 or 2 playoff start against the Nationals.
“I anticipated good [Monday],” Maddon said. “He’s coming. That’s the whole point. It’s going to get there.”
NOTES: Second baseman Javy Baez badly bruised his right knee on a foul ball in the eighth, then hit a single and left the game. He said afterward it was sore but he expected to play Tuesday.
— Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was hit in the mask by fouls on back-to-back pitches and left the game for concussion protocol. He vomited in his mask after the second one.
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