LONDON – The St. Louis Cardinals overcame a poor first inning, and manager Oliver Marmol thinks they can still overcome a shaky start to the season.
They took a step in that direction by beating the Chicago Cubs 7-5 on Sunday, chasing ace Marcus Stroman in the fourth inning to earn a split of their weekend series at London Stadium.
“We do believe we have a chance at this,” Marmol said. “But in reality, if we’re talking about sustainable, we’re going to have to pitch better and we're going to have to continue to do what we do offensively.”
The Cubs missed a chance to get back to .500 after Stroman (9-5) left the game with a blister on his right index finger, and the Cardinals ended a two-game skid after an error-filled first inning handed the Cubs a 4-0 lead.
Paul Goldschmidt hit a go-ahead RBI single that knocked Stroman out of the game, and Willson Contreras went 4 for 4 with two runs scored.
“Contreras had a really good day and we feel like he’s starting to get into a really good spot and he’s going to be a big contributor to us being able to go on a run,” Marmol said. “But giving up four in the first and some of the miscues — those things are the things that can’t happen.”
The Cubs (37-39) won 9-1 on Saturday but had their winning streak halted at four games. They haven't been at .500 since May 12, though they've still won 11 of their past 14 games.
Jordan Hicks, who sat out Saturday because of illness, got the final three outs to record his fourth save — all in the past eight days. He struck out two and allowed one run on Nico Hoerner’s sacrifice fly.
The Cardinals bullpen allowed one run over 6 2/3 innings before a crowd of 55,565 with the temperature at 87 degrees at the start.
Jake Woodford (2-2) came in for spot starter Matthew Liberatore in the third and pitched 2 1/3 innings.
The Cardinals (32-45) erased a 4-0 deficit with timely hitting and a big assist from Cubs first baseman Trey Mancini.
With the bases loaded in the second, Stroman struck out Paul DeJong for the second out. Tommy Edman then grounded to second but Hoerner's underhanded toss to Mancini was dropped by the first baseman when he tried to grab it with his bare hand — allowing Contreras to score to make it 4-1. Stroman smacked his mitt in frustration.
Brendan Donovan hit a two-run single to right field on a sinker — batters swung at 17 Stroman sinkers and missed just three — scoring Nolan Gorman and Jordan Walker, who beat the throw with a head-first slide to make it 4-3.
An inning later, the Cards pulled even at 4-4 on Walker's single that scored Lars Nootbaar.
Goldschmidt put the “home” team ahead in the fourth on a sharp single off Stroman that scored Edman.
Stroman was then pulled and the first batter reliever Michael Fulmer faced was Nootbaar, whose sacrifice fly scored Donovan for a 6-4 lead.
An inning later, the Cards made it 7-4 when Gorman's single to left off Fulmer drove in Contreras.
The Cardinals handed Stroman a 4-0 lead before he even took the mound by committing two infield errors in the top of the first inning — not helping Liberatore, who took Jack Flaherty's place.
Hoerner led off and reached on an error by DeJong at short and moved to third by stealing second and advancing on an error by Gorman at second.
Liberatore struck out Christopher Morel looking for the second out.
Dansby Swanson singled to score Hoerner. Ian Happ walked and Mancini then hit a two-run double, crunching a 95 mph pitch off the wall in the left-center gap — it might have sailed out in 2019 when the walls were closer — and came around to make it 4-0 when Miguel Amaya doubled on a hard shot past third baseman Nolan Arenado that originally was ruled an error.
Stroman allowed six runs, three earned, and eight hits and had two strikeouts and a walk. Liberatore lasted 2 1/3 innings.
The two-game attendance figure was 110,227, which is 8,491 less than the two-game tally from 2019 when the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox played in the MLB's European debut.
Nootbaar hopes “we inspire some kids to go out there buy a glove, buy a bat and go in the backyard and play a little bit.”
The Baseball Hall of Fame collected a few items from the London games. Happ donated the batting gloves he wore when he hit two homers on Saturday. Goldschmidt donated the cap he wore Saturday when he became the first big leaguer to play a regular-season game in five countries.
Cubs: Cody Bellinger returned after being out sick on Saturday.
Cardinals: Gorman was in the lineup after sitting out a day with an illness. RHP Flaherty had been scratched from his scheduled start Sunday with hip tightness and Marmol said there are bullpen options should he miss another turn in the rotation.
The teams have Monday off to recover from the trip and both begin six-game homestands Tuesday. The Cubs host the Philadelphia Phillies. The Cardinals host the Houston Astros.