- Associated Press - Thursday, July 9, 2015

CHICAGO (AP) - Pedro Strop needed to make one pitch. When he didn’t, a game and a chance at a series win against the first-place St. Louis Cardinals slipped away.

Just like that.

Jhonny Peralta hit a two-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning and the Cardinals jolted the Cubs 6-5 Wednesday night.

The Cardinals trailed 5-4 and Strop (1-4) quickly retired the first two batters in the ninth.

Matt Carpenter followed with a four-pitch walk and Peralta connected on a 1-2 pitch, hitting a drive that barely cleared the wall in left field for his 12th home run.

“It’s a tough one to swallow,” said Strop, who worked the ninth rather than closer Jason Motte, who pitched in both games of a day-night doubleheader Tuesday. “Ninth inning, two outs, two strikes. It’s really tough. That’s one of the times when baseball is tough; it’s not as easy as it looks on TV.”

Miguel Socolovich (3-1) got two outs for the win. Trevor Rosenthal gave up a two-out double to Addison Russell in the ninth, but struck out Dexter Fowler for his 25th save in 26 chances.

Despite the tough loss, Cubs manager Joe Maddon liked his team’s effort in a game that Strop said the Cubs “should have had” and that would have allowed them to take three of four in the series after Tuesday’s doubleheader sweep.

“It’s baseball, man,” Maddon said. “We’ve done it to other teams and they did it to us tonight.”

The Cubs took a 5-4 lead in the sixth on Miguel Montero’s three-run double. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and catcher Yadier Molina were ejected after Montero’s hit, arguing that the pitch before the double should’ve been called a strike instead of a ball.

But after the Cardinals watched their lead disappear, Peralta’s winning homer changed everything.

“Man, I just love when these guys don’t give up,” Matheny said. “I don’t know if I get any more of a charge out of this game than to see guys get knocked down and watch how they respond.”

Cubs reliever Travis Wood pitched three hitless innings and Hector Rondon worked a scoreless eighth before Strop came in. Chicago starter Jason Hammel exited with tightness in his left hamstring after pitching a hitless first inning.

For all of the positives, watching a game slip away was tough to digest.

“That’s a game you’ve got to win - especially when you’ve got two outs,” Montero said. “All of a sudden, it’s two runs, you lose the game.”

MR. DIPLOMATIC

Cubs manager Joe Maddon isn’t a big fan of the All-Star Game’s Home Run Derby. But with two participants this year, Rizzo and Bryant, Maddon will set aside his personal feelings, hoping that Rizzo, a No. 6 seed, and Bryant, a No. 8 seed, can come through with a win. Maddon typically lays low during the All-Star break, but said he may watch the derby given his team’s ties to the event. But Maddon doesn’t have a favorite between his two young stars. “If there’s such a thing as a tie and they both can win it, I’ll take it,” Maddon said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: Cardinals 2B Kolten Wong sat out Wednesday’s game, following a play in the first game of a doubleheader Tuesday in which he hit his head on the ground while making a catch. Trainers had Wong riding a stationary bike to elevate his heart rate and taking tests, but Wong said he felt much better. “I woke up this morning feeling fine,” Wong said. Matheny said Wong was “asymptomatic” for concussion on Wednesday morning. “That’s a good sign,” Matheny said.

Cubs: Hammel left after the first inning with left hamstring tightness after throwing 12 pitches and retiring the Cardinals in order.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: RHP Carlos Martinez (9-3, 2.70) will take the mound for the Cardinals on Thursday at Pittsburgh. The Cardinals are 13-3 in Martinez’ 16 starts this season, but he is 0-2 in three starts against the Pirates, including a loss on May 9 when he allowed seven runs in 5 1-3 innings. In his last outing Martinez had no decision in the Cardinals’ 2-1 win over San Diego on July 4. Martinez will face Pittsburgh LHP Jeff Locke (5-4, 4.15).

Cubs: The Cubs have an off day Thursday. On Friday, RHP Kyle Hendricks (4-4, 3.82) will go in the first game of the three-game Crosstown Cup Series with the White Sox at Wrigley Field. Hendricks pitched 7 1-3 shutout innings and got the win in his last start, beating the Marlins 2-0 on July 5. Hendricks has pitched 15 1-3 scoreless innings going into Friday’s game, a career best. It will be his first career start against the White Sox. He’ll pitch against LHP Carlos Rodon (3-2, 4.18).


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