CHICAGO (AP) – Willson Contreras hit a tiebreaking two-run homer, Jose Quintana won again and the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-3 on Sunday night to move into a virtual tie for first in the NL Central.
Kyle Schwarber also connected as the Cubs won for the eighth time in nine games since the All-Star break. The World Series champions improved to 51-46, just a few percentage points ahead of Milwaukee after the Brewers (53-48) lost 6-3 at Philadelphia.
Quintana (6-8) struck out seven in six innings in his first home start since he was acquired in a blockbuster trade with the White Sox on July 13. He pitched seven sparkling innings in an 8-0 victory at Baltimore in his Cubs debut last Sunday.
The veteran left-hander wasn’t nearly as sharp this time around, but he was good enough. He allowed three runs and five hits while improving to 3-0 in three career starts against St. Louis.
Randal Grichuk hit a two-run homer for the Cardinals, who closed out a 4-6 road trip with their fourth loss in five games. Paul DeJong also went deep.
Coming off his first career shutout, Michael Wacha (7-4) was charged with five runs and six hits in six innings in his first loss since May 30. The right-hander was 4-0 with a 1.01 ERA in his previous four starts, including a three-hitter in a 5-0 victory against the Mets on Tuesday.
Grichuk’s third homer in three games since coming off the disabled list and DeJong’s 12th of the season helped St. Louis to a 3-2 lead. But Chicago battled back via the long ball.
Schwarber tied it at 3 with a towering solo shot in the fourth. With one out and Kris Bryant aboard after a leadoff double in the sixth, Contreras drove a 3-1 pitch from Wacha into the bleachers in left-center for his third homer in his last four games and No. 15 on the year.
The Cubs’ bullpen took over from there. Hector Rondon and Carl Edwards Jr. each got three outs before Wade Davis finished for his 20th save in 20 chances.
Grichuk, DeJong and Jedd Gyorko had two hits apiece for St. Louis, which also lost first baseman Matt Carpenter to right quad tightness.
Carpenter reached on an error in the first and was thrown out at home when he tried to score on Gyorko’s two-out double to left-center. Carpenter then was replaced by Luke Voit before the Cubs batted in the second inning. The team said he is day to day.
Right-hander Kyle Hendricks makes his first start since June 4 when the Cubs host the crosstown White Sox on Monday afternoon. Hendricks, who won 16 games last season and led the majors with a 2.13 ERA, was sidelined by pain in the middle finger of his right hand – quite possibly from overuse.
“That’s probably the problem. Yeah, stop flipping the bird to people,” the mild-mannered Hendricks said with a laugh. “Maybe it was too much, too much of that. You know, driving in Chicago, I don’t know.”
Cardinals: RHP Mike Leake pitches Monday for the first time since he acknowledged after his last outing that he is struggling to maintain optimal body strength between starts. The issue traces back to last year, when Leake was sidelined by shingles and lost some weight and strength. Manager Mike Matheny said Leake’s comment after his shaky performance against the Mets on Wednesday was the first time he had heard of the issue. “It’s something that wasn’t on my radar,” Matheny said. “It’s just something that hadn’t been talked about for quite a while.” Leake is 1-6 with a 5.04 ERA in last 10 starts.
Cardinals: Leake (6-8, 3.39 ERA) gets the ball against Colorado in St. Louis’ first home game since July 9. RHP Antonio Senzatela (10-3, 4.67 ERA) pitches for the Rockies.
Cubs: After Hendricks (4-3, 4.09 ERA) faces RHP Miguel Gonzalez (4-9, 4.89 ERA) in the series opener, RHP John Lackey, RHP Jake Arrieta and LHP Jon Lester start the next three games against the last-place White Sox.
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