ST. LOUIS — For the second time in as many road series, the Cubs noticed new carpeting in the visitors’ clubhouse as they got to town to open the series Friday.
“Man, the Cubbies got a lot of teams new carpets,” one player said as he walked across the soft new beige carpeting in the Busch Stadium clubhouse, which the Cubs abused with their champagne celebration last September after clinching a second consecutive division title.
Players noticed the same thing at their last stop, in Cleveland, where they had celebrated their Game 7 World Series victory in 2016, destroying the floor covering there, too.
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The St. Louis carpeting seems much nicer — almost as if the Cardinals feel confident nobody’s going to mess it up this year.
And if the Cubs keep hitting like they did in Friday night’s 3-2 loss, the Cardinals might feel safe enough against the division favorites to redecorate the whole room.
“You’ve just got to keep fighting through it,” manager Joe Maddon said of a scoring slump that reached nine consecutive games with three or fewer runs, with the Cubs failing to score at all until the ninth inning. “You believe in your guys. You know they’re going to hit.”
For now, they’ll live with a three-game losing streak caused in large part by their scoring woes, and also live with the fact that on a night when their pitching didn’t give up an earned run, they still couldn’t score enough to win.
All three Cardinals runs scored on Tommy Pham’s two-out homer to left off Jose Quintana in the second inning. They were unearned because of shortstop Javy Baez’s fumble of Dexter Fowler’s grounder to the hole leading off the inning. After the error came an infield single, a fly ball out, a strikeout and Pham.
“Obviously, Q had to get four outs, and it’s not easy to get three,” a disappointed Baez said afterward.
Meanwhile, a free-agent acquisition from Japan who was overshadowed by the names and strange pace of the American market, made it looked surprisingly easy against the Cubs. Miles Mikolas, the right-hander the Cardinals signed out from under the Cubs in December, pitched into the eighth inning without allowing a walk, much less a run.
“I guess [the Cubs] didn’t want me that bad,” said Mikolas, who hasn’t allowed a walk in five of six starts since returning to the U.S. on a two-year, $15.5 million deal after three seasons in Japan. “I guess they thought it would be more fun facing me than having me on their staff.”
Maybe that’s the pitcher from Japan the Cubs should have signed?
Two days after $126 million free-agent signee Yu Darvish failed again to get out of the fifth, Mikolas (4-0) pitched out of jams in the first and fifth and made his fourth consecutive start of at least seven innings.
“I don’t like giving pitchers a lot of credit,” Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr. said, “but there’s a reason he’s 4-0.”
The Cubs sound confident they’ll start scoring more than 2.0 runs per game again in time to become a threat to the carpeting.
“Because we know how good we are,” said Almora, whose opened a ninth-inning rally with a leadoff single. “We’re a confident group. We’ve just got to come back tomorrow and be ready to go.”