Cubs silence Martinez with five-run inning, start second half with 9-6 win

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CHICAGO • The weekend that could come to decide the season didn’t waste much time before it reflected it.

The Cardinals inched into an early lead against their rival Chicago Cubs on Thursday night at Wrigley Field. But in a cloud of familiar errors and another runaway inning against starter Carlos Martinez, the lead, the game, and the good vibes for a fresh starts became just another loss to the Cubs.

Ian Happ homered as part of a five-run fifth inning against Martinez and the hosts remained ahead, winning, 9-6.

The teams have four more games this weekend.

The clock is ticking on the Cardinals to make their move.

Yadier Molina tied a career high with four hits for the 18th time, and he was a part of two rallies that helped the Cardinals to a 3-1 lead through 4 1/2 innings. Fresh from the All-Star Game, Molina singled and scored in the first inning. He doubled after Tommy Pham’s solo homer in the second inning, and in the fifth inning Molina singled and scored on Kolten Wong’s RBI single.

That five-inning labor to build a lead was vaporized in one inning.

Martinez (6-6) dialed back his velocity in the fifth inning and threw only two pitches at 90 mph or greater in his first 18 pitches. All of those off-speed offerings caught up to him with five hits in the inning. Two of those hits were extra-base thumps, including an RBI double by Anthony Rizzo and Happ’s three-run homer.

Happ did not see a fastball in his at-bat that netted a homer.

An error by Paul DeJong, the first of his two, ignited the inning but did not prolong it.

Martinez allowed six runs (five earned) on seven hits through five innings. He struck out only two batters — and his velocity oscillated from inning to inning, perhaps on purpose. He’ll be asked about that after the game.

The three runs the Cubs scored against the Cardinals’ bullpen proved a welcome game late as the Cardinals teased rallies in the eighth and ninth innings. Molina hit as the tying run in the eighth inning but Carl Edwards Jr. got a soft liner to second base to end the inning and the threat. 

Cardinals answer bench coach question, add ‘Pop’ Warner to Shildt’s staff

One of the conversations interim manager Mike Shildt intended to have Wednesday, on the eve of his first full series and first visit to Wrigley Field in his new role, was with his coaches about how they would fill the vacancy left by his promotion.

He and the front office had an idea for the role of bench coach.

Turns out, they also had a person in mind.

The Cardinals promoted longtime coach Ron “Pop” Warner to the role of bench coach. The team made the announcement Thursday afternoon as it readied for the opener of a five-game, four-day series against the first-place Cubs. Warner and new hitting coaches Mark Budaska and George Greer are expected to be with the team Thursday night. It will be the first time Shildt has his complete coaching staff in place.

At the introductory press conference for Shildt, Cardinals officials said they were planning to split the duties of bench coach into a more committee-type approach. Greer and Jose Oquendo were mentioned as coaches who could take on different parts of the bench coach job.

Shildt said he had “a vision” of how this would work.

Warner, 49, spent a dozen years in the Cardinals’ organization as a coach and manager, moving up through the ranks to eventually manage Class AAA Memphis. After the 2014 season, he was moved into a field coordinator position, and he has worked throughout the organization since. He spent some time on the major-league staff a year ago after the June rearrangement of positions.

Warner will wear No. 75.

This blog will be updated with info from Wrigley Field throughout the afternoon, including the Cardinals’ lineup when available.

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