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MLB London Series review: Cubs, Cards split across the Pond

One of the most interesting things Major League Baseball has introduced over the past few years is the now-annual London Series. 

Introduced in 2019, this series features two teams that travel to London, England to play a series in front of a British crowd. 

Designed to grow the game in England and Europe as a whole, the London Series has been a huge success since its introduction, including this year’s two-game set between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals

Here, we’ll review this year’s London Series.

Game 1: Saturday, June 24

The opening game of this year’s London Series took place on Saturday, June 24. 

The Cubs started Justin Steele, who recently returned from the Injured List after an incredible start to the season. 

The Cardinals went with veteran Adam Wainwright.

Runs weren’t hard to come by for the Cubs in Game 1, as multiple runners crossed the plate in the second, third and fourth innings. 

This gave Chicago a comfortable 7-0 lead heading into the bottom of the fourth. 

St. Louis would fight back a bit in the sixth, scoring their sole run of the day off Steele. 

For his part, Steele was exceptional: over 6.0 innings of work, he surrendered just 1 earned run on 5 hits and 1 walk, striking out 8 and earning the win. 

The bullpen was lights-out behind him, with Julian Merryweather, Michael Fulmer and Anthony Kay combining for three innings of shutout ball.

On the other side, Wainwright was poor. He surrendered 7 earned runs on 11 hits and 1 walk, and he failed to record even one strikeout. 

While Steven Matz, Jake Woodford and Drew VerHagen combined for 6.0 innings of shutout work, it wasn’t enough to dig the Cardinals out of the hole.

At the plate, five Cubs hitters recorded two or more hits: Ian Happ (2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI), Dansby Swanson (2-3, HR, 2 BB, 2 R, 2 RBI), Christopher Morel (3-4, R, RBI), Yan Gomes (2-4, RBI) and Nick Madrigal (2-4, 2B, R, RBI). 

Mike Tauchman and Nico Hoerner each delivered a double in the win as well.

On the Cardinals end, hits were more difficult to come by. 

2022 NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt led the charge, going 1-3 with a walk, driving in one. Tommy Edman (1-4, 2B, R) and Paul DeJong (1-4, 2B) recorded extra-base hits in the loss.

Game 2: Sunday, June 25

Game 2 played out a bit differently than Game 1 did, though it didn’t feel that way in the early innings. 

The Cubs, who are +325 to win the NL Central, exploded in the top of the first to score four runs, establishing an early advantage for starting pitcher Marcus Stroman. 

However, Stroman couldn’t protect the lead, surrendering three in the second, one in the third and two in the fourth before getting the hook. 

St. Louis would cap off their run scoring in the fifth. Though Chicago would attempt a ninth-inning comeback, they fell short and took the loss 7-5.

Stroman’s ineffectiveness was the story of the game, as he entered the matchup as the National League’s leader in ERA. 

His overall line – 3.1 IP, 6 R (3 ER), 8 H, 1 BB, 2 K – was perhaps his worst showing of the season.

While it can be easy to blame this stumble on the unfamiliar setting of the game, Justin Steele had no problems dealing with it the day before. 

Whether this is the beginning of the much-anticipated regression to the mean for Stroman or a mere bump in the road remains to be seen.

While Stroman got the start for the Cubs, the Cardinals went with rookie Matthew Liberatore. 

Liberatore’s stat line didn’t look much better, though he was snake-bitten by errors. 

Through 2.1 innings of work, Liberatore allowed four runs to score, though none were earned. He surrendered four hits and walked two, registering three punchouts.

With Liberatore getting the early hook, the bullpen had to pick up the slack – and that’s exactly what they did, combining for seven innings of work and allowing just one earned run.

At the plate, the Cardinals were led by Willson Contreras (4-4, 2B, 2 R). Nolan Gorman (2-3, BB, R, RBI), Lars Nootbaar (1-4, R, RBI), Jordan Walker (1-3, BB, R, RBI), Tommy Edman (1-3, R) and Paul Goldschmidt (1-5, RBI) also contributed to the victory.

The Cubs’ offense was a bit flat in the loss, as no hitter recorded multiple knocks; however, they got contributions up and down the lineup. 

Notable hitters included Nico Hoerner (1-4, 2B, R, RBI), Dansby Swanson (1-4, R, RBI), Ian Happ (0-1, 3 BB, R), Trey Mancini (1-1, 2B, R), Miguel Amaya (1-1, 2B, RBI) and Nick Madrigal (1-4, R).

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