A quality start from Adrian Sampson and back-to-back two-run innings in the third and fourth from the offense weren’t enough for the Cubs to stop the Cardinals from winning their franchise-record 15th consecutive game Saturday.
The Cubs’ 8-5 loss was decided by late-inning baserunning, good and bad.
For the bad, David Bote led off the eighth with a triple with the Cardinals leading 5-4 and the Cubs a virtual shoo-in to tie the score. Trayce Thompson walked to put runners on the corners with no outs, but Sergio Alcantara struck out and Rafael Ortega hit into a 3-2-5-4-2-8-6 double play.
If it helps in trying to picture what that looked like, at one point, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was running with the ball between third and second.
‘‘David’s gotta stand there a little bit longer early on, give those guys a chance to get into scoring position on the backside,’’ manager David Ross said of the rundown. ‘‘There’s a lot going on there, but you’ve got to commit to the next base.’’
Cardinals center fielder Harrison Bader provided the good baserunning in the ninth. He hit a one-out double to left, stole third, then slid past pitcher Tommy Nance’s tag on a wild pitch to put the Cardinals up 6-4. Paul DeJong followed with a two-run home run.
‘‘We gotta hold him tight and be quicker to the plate for [catcher Willson Contreras] in those moments,’’ Ross said.
Ian Happ hit a solo homer to center in the ninth, his 24th round-tripper of the season. That tied the career high he set as a rookie in 2017.
Evaluating young arms
One of the main puzzle pieces for the 2022 Cubs will be the pitching staff. While the offense surprisingly has performed better as a group since three core pieces were traded at the deadline, the pitchers have had the second-highest ERA (6.56) since July 31.
Some of that has been because there are so many young arms on the staff. The Cubs have had eight pitchers make their major-league debuts this season.
But one of the silver linings to a losing season is that the Cubs’ coaching staff has been able to test different things with guys such as Adbert Alzolay, Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson.
‘‘To truly evaluate anybody, you have to put them in a multitude of situations,’’ pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said.
In the minors, pitchers are typically on regimented schedules for when and how they are used. That’s done to protect them from undue wear-and-tear while they’re developing, but it can make figuring out what they are fully capable of a little tricky.
‘‘A lot of the younger guys we’re evaluating up to the last day, the last outing,’’ Hottovy said. ‘‘So a lot of things we’re putting together for the young guys also are things we want them to focus on in this offseason.
‘‘That’s maybe pitch usage or trying to get better in certain areas. Sometimes it’s getting stronger or getting more reps in.’’
Hoerner a late scratch
Nico Hoerner was slated to start at shortstop and bat eighth, but he was a late scratch because of general soreness. The Cubs said the move was precautionary because Hoerner has dealt with injuries all season.