CHICAGO – Anthony Rizzo could feel the fans hanging onto each pitch as he fouled off one after another.
When he finally launched one over the right-field wall on the 14th pitch of his at-bat, Wrigley Field rocked in a way it hadn't in years, with a near-capacity crowd on its feet and roaring.
“It was incredible,” Rizzo said.
Joc Pederson homered and drove in three runs, Rizzo and Willson Contreras went deep and the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 8-5 on Friday.
Wrigley Field allowed 100% capacity for the first time since 2019 on what the Cubs called “Opening Day 2.0.” They fell behind 5-1, then treated a crowd of 35,112 to a comeback win over their NL Central rivals.
Pederson gave the Cubs a 7-5 lead in the seventh with a two-run double off the wall in right-center against Génesis Cabrera (1-2). He also singled leading off the first and homered in his second straight game when he drove one to the center-field basket against against Johan Oviedo in the fourth.
Rizzo tied it at 5-all in the sixth with his drive to right against Daniel Ponce de Leon. It came on the longest Cubs at-bat to end in with a home run since pitch count records began in 1988, and the fans erupted in delight.
He took a ball on an 0-2 pitch, then fouled off six more. He took another ball and fouled off three more before connecting on a 96.1 mph fastball.
For Rizzo it was as sweet as any hit since he arrived in Chicago in 2012.
“It was definitely one of my most memorable at-bats,” he said. “With it being 100% today for the first time and having everyone here, versus the Cardinals, it was a really good moment for me.”
Contreras added a solo homer in the eighth.
Kohl Stewart got chased during a three-run fifth. But the Cubs scored three in the bottom half, knocking Oviedo out and pulling to 5-4.
Stewart gave up five runs and six hits in four-plus innings. Four relievers combined to shut down the Cardinals.
Tommy Nance (1-0) threw two innings to win his first major league decision. Ryan Tepera worked the eighth, and Craig Kimbrel retired all three batters in the ninth for his 16th save in 18 chances.
“It just felt really energetic,” manager David Ross said. “The outfield was packed, beautiful day. That was a nice W. ... Clearly, those fans helped us win that game.”
The Cardinals lost for the seventh time in eight games and have fallen from first place before play to May 31 to a 32-31 record.
“Better times are ahead,” Nolan Arenado said. “I've said that before, but I really believe that. If we can get healthier and get everyone back full strength, we'll be right there.”
Arenado drove in three runs. Yadier Molina had three hits, but the nine-time Gold Glove catcher also allowed runs to score on a passed ball and throwing error in the fifth.
Oviedo allowed four runs and five hits in 4 1/3 innings.
Rizzo created a stir before the game when he told a Chicago radio station he has not been vaccinated.
He called it a “really hard decision on both ends” in an interview with WMVP-AM and basically reiterated that in his postgame media session, though he didn't completely slam the door on getting one of the vaccines.
“For me, it's just one of those things where I'm definitely not against getting it,” said Rizzo, a cancer survivor. “Just taking some more time to see the data on all of it. There's definitely some personal reasons as well. ... I love that everyone gets vaccinated. I'm for it. I think it's really amazing to see everyone back in the stands and back getting to normal.”
The Cubs are not among the 22 teams reaching the 85% vaccination threshold that would allow them to relax protocols. Teams that get there can drop the requirements for facemasks in dugouts and bullpens, and loosen restrictions on mobility during road trips.
Cardinals: SS Paul DeJong (non-displaced rib fracture) returned to the lineup after being sidelined since May 12. ... The Cardinals were hopeful LHP Kwang Hyun Kim (lower back tightness) won't need to go on a rehab assignment before returning from the injured list, manager Mike Shildt said. ... RHP Kodi Whitley (back) has resumed playing catch and could throw off the mound in the next three to five days, Shildt said.
Cubs: SS Javier Báez (sore right thumb) returned to the lineup after missing the previous three games. ... The Cubs placed C P.J. Higgins (strained right forearm) on the 10-day injured list and selected C José Lobatón from Triple-A Iowa. They also designated RHP Dakota Chalmers for assignment.
RHP Kyle Hendricks (7-4, 4.59 ERA) looks to win his sixth straight start for Chicago, while RHP John Gant (4-3, 2.63) pitches for St. Louis. Hendricks has a 2.91 ERA in his past five outings.
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