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Cubs defeat Cardinals 6-3, even NLDS at one game apiece

ST. LOUIS — Jorge Soler’s two-run homer capped a five-run second inning that also featured a pair of run-scoring squeeze bunts, and the Cubs got 4 2/3 innings of scoreless innings from their bullpen to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-3 in Game 2 of the National League Division Series Saturday at Busch Stadium.

The victory evens the best-of-five series at one game apiece. Game 3 is Monday at Wrigley Field with Cubs ace Jake Arrieta pitching against the Cardinals’ Michael Wacha.

After 25-year-old right-hander Kyle Hendricks allowed three runs over 4 2/3 innings — all on solo home runs — Travis Wood pitched 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, Trevor Cahill pitched a perfect eighth with two strikeouts and closer Hector Rondon finished things off in the ninth. Mark Reynolds struck out with a runner on first to end the game.

“It gives us the momentum,” Hendricks said. “If we had won game 1 and lost this one it would have felt about the same but it does feel good to get the win now, get to fly home – happy flight – and get the momentum going into Wrigley.”

With Arrieta, the best pitcher in baseball during the second half, pitching, the Cubs will be a confident bunch playing their first home playoff game.

“I’m really excited,” catcher David Ross said. “The atmosphere around Wrigley was really fun down the stretch but this town has been waiting a few years on this. I haven’t necessarily felt their pain but I’ve felt the excitement around the city as you walk around. I am super excited about that atmosphere, what the crowd will bring in that home-town field.”

Matt Carpenter’s leadoff homer in the first against right-hander Kyle Hendricks started things on an ominous note for the Cubs, who were shut out 4-0 in Game 1 Friday. But the Cubs answered with five runs in the second inning and one in the third to grab a 6-1 lead. The Cardinals got to within distance on back-to-back solo homers by Kolten Wong and pinch-hitter Randal Grichuk in the fifth.

All of the Cubs runs in the second were unearned because of a throwing error by left-hander Jaime Garcia, who also allowed four hits.

The home runs prompted manager Joe Maddon to replace Hendricks with left-hander Wood, who struck out Carpenter for the third out of the fifth and added two more scoreless innings.

Cahill’s perfect eighth included strikeouts of Matt Carpenter and Stephen Piscotty.

The Cubs scored their first two runs on back-to-back safety squeeze bunts by Hendricks and Addison Russell, added a third run on Dexter Fowler’s infield single and made it 5-1 on a two-run homer to center by Soler.

Here’s how the big second inning unfolded for the Cubs: Starlin Castro led off with a single to center. Austin Jackson reached on a fielder’s choice but advanced to second when second baseman Kolten Wong’s throw trying to double up Jackson sailed wide and out of play. Jackson stole third,  Miguel Montero walked and Hendricks — batting eighth — put down a bunt to Garcia’s left. The pitcher appeared to have a play on Jackson at home but threw to first instead, but the throw was wide of the bag to put runners on second and third. Russell then scored Montero with a squeeze bunt. After Fowler beat out a roller to shortstop Jhonny Peralta, scoring Hendricks, Soler homered.

NLDS Cubs Cardinals Baseball

Jorge Soler and Cubs teammates watch his home run clear the center field wall. It gave the Cubs a 5-1 lead. –AP

Garcia was replaced after the second inning by Lance Lynn, who gave up a run in the third and was replaced by Carlos Villaneuva. It was announced after the fourth inning that Garcia was removed because of a stomach virus.

The Cubs added a run in the third against Lynn as Anthony Rizzo walked, went to third on Castro’s hit-and-run single to right and scored on Montero’s ground out.

Soler, getting his first start of the postseason, doubled into the left field corner against Garcia with one out in the first to give the Cubs an early scoring opportunity. But Kris Bryant struck out looking and Rizzo struck out swinging to end the threat. Rizzo tossed his bat about halfway to the Cubs dugout and flipped his helmet in the same direction before taking his position at first base. But frustration turned to jubilation on the Cubs side their next time up.

Hendricks, meanwhile, remained steady after allowing the homer to Carpenter, striking out seven of the next 15 batters he faced. But that good stretch ended with the pair of home-run pitches. Hendricks’ line: 4 2/3 innings, four hits, three runs, seven strikeouts, no walks.

NLDS Cubs Cardinals Baseball

Kyle Hendricks allowed three runs — all on homers — in 4 2/3 innings of work. –AP

The Cubs had runners at the corners with one out in the seventh, but Adam Wainwright entered and retired Anthony Rizzo on a liner to third (Fowler was almost doubled off third on the play) and Castro on a one-hop smash to Wong’s backhand.

Wood, meanwhile, retired seven of the eight batters he faced and took the Cubs into the eighth inning with a three-run lead.

Even with ace Jake Arrieta starting Game 3 at Wrigley Field, having to win three straight games in the best-of-five series would be a tall order. Hendricks, 25, was the youngest Cubs pitcher to start a postseason game since Mark Prior (23) and Carlos Zambrano (22) made starts against the Marlins in the 2003 NLCS.