Joc Pederson knows what it takes to be a good team. His last game with the Dodgers saw them win the 2020 World Series, completing a long-awaited trip to the pinnacle of the sport.
“Details are very important; good teams take care of the small things,” Pederson said. “There really are no small things; they’re all big. You can see that when two good teams play each other. The ones who make the least amount of mistakes usually win. The littlest mistake that you think is so small could end up losing you a game or a playoff game or a World Series.”
That’s all true, but power, patience and good starting pitching help, too, as the Cubs proved again Saturday in their 7-2 victory against the Cardinals. Home runs from Ian Happ, Sergio Alcantara and Pederson plus six innings from Kyle Hendricks helped the Cubs (37-27) win their fourth in a row to keep pace with the Brewers atop the National League Central.
The Cubs entered the game having won 26 of their last 39, the best mark in the NL and second-best in baseball during that stretch, and one reason has been their offense. They started the day with 85 homers, ranking fourth in the NL, and had the league’s fourth-best run differential at plus-33.
Those positive trends continued in front of a revved-up crowd of 39,095 at Wrigley Field, with the team’s depth playing a role again.
“That’s the beauty of having a bunch of guys that have been together for a while and have had a ton of success in this league,” Happ said, “and then the guys that are coming up and filling in and becoming big parts of this team have been huge contributors.”
While the Cubs debuted their new City Connect uniforms, there weren’t many masks worn in the dugout. Manager David Ross said he wasn’t masked because he didn’t have one that matched his uniform and that he didn’t notice that others weren’t masked.
“I’ll be back to wearing that tomorrow,” Ross said.
Regardless of the Cubs’ attire, the offense had contributions from plenty of people against Cardinals starter John Gant.
Nolan Arenado gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead with a home run in the second, but that advantage didn’t make it through the bottom of the inning.
After Willson Contreras walked, Happ put the Cubs in front with an opposite-field homer to left, giving the team a home run in 12 straight games. Gant walked the next three batters — including Hendricks — then walked Kris Bryant to increase the Cubs’ lead to 3-1.
Jake Woodford replaced Gant and gave up an RBI single to Javy Baez before hitting Anthony Rizzo with the bases loaded to cap the Cubs’ five-run second.
“When you get our offense to continue to have the at-bats they have, we’re never out of a game,” Ross said. “We can put up a crooked number pretty fast.”
Hendricks, meanwhile, won his sixth consecutive start, but the home-run bug continued to bite him. Paul DeJong homered in the third to cut the Cubs’ lead to 5-2 and increase the number of home runs allowed by Hendricks to 19.
A turning point came in the third when he retired Paul Goldschmidt and Arenado with runners on first and second. The Cardinals didn’t threaten Hendricks again.
“There’s a little bit more in there, be better,” Hendricks said. “But, overall, it’s trending in the right direction.”