CHICAGO – Javier Assad pitched four scoreless innings in his major league debut and combined with four relievers on a five-hitter as the Chicago Cubs cooled off the St. Louis Cardinals 2-0 on Tuesday in the first game of a doubleheader.
Michael Rucker (3-1), Sean Newcomb, Erich Uelmen and Brandon Hughes allowed one hit over the final five innings to halt the NL Central-leading Cardinals' season-high eight-game winning streak. Hughes picked up his third save.
“Phenomenal job by the whole pitching staff, obviously, holding these guys to no runs,” Cubs manager David Ross said.
Nico Hoerner and Seiya Suzuki drove in runs off St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright in the third. Rookie Christopher Morel had two hits for the Cubs, who have won six of eight.
Chicago kept red-hot, 42-year-old Albert Pujols in the ballpark. He went 1-for-4 with a double after batting .548 (17-for-33) with seven homers in his previous 10 games.
“We’ve been coming through with the big hits quite often for the past couple of weeks and guys have been cashing in," St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol said. "But today we got good pitches to hit and were just missing them.”
The 25-year-old Assad was selected from Triple-A Iowa before the game. The right-hander allowed four hits, walked four and struck out three.
“Really nice debut for him,” Ross said. “He looked to be calm out there, pounding the strike zone. The cutter was working really well for him, being able to come right at them right out of the chute.”
Rucker relieved Assad with two on and none out in the fifth and Chicago ahead 2-0. He retired Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Nolan Gorman to end the threat, then pitched a 1-2-3 sixth.
“For me, Rucker's performance was really impressive,” Ross said.
Wainwright (9-9) yielded two runs on five hits in six innings.
Lars Nootbaar doubled twice but was thrown out at the plate in the first when he tried to score from third on Goldschmidt’s grounder to first.
The Cardinals loaded the bases with two outs in the third on Brendan Donovan’s single followed by a pair of walks. Assad got Gorman to ground out.
The Cubs scored on Hoerner's RBI groundout and Suzuki's single up the middle that deflected off Wainwright's glove.
Assad, a native of Tijuana, Mexico, joined the Cubs organization as an 18-year-old in 2016. His wife and parents were in the stands at Wrigley Field.
“It's something we've been working hard for, seven years in this organization,” Assad said through a translator. “It's definitely something that lived up to what I thought it was going to be like.”
Assad's first strikeout: Getting Pujols looking the second inning.
“I was 3 years old when he debuted," Assad said. “So I never imagined that I would have been facing him, let alone getting that strikeout.”
The Cubs shut out the Cardinals for the second time this season, following a 3-0 win at St. Louis on June 24.
Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina, both 40, started their 321st game as batterymates. That’s second only to Detroit’s Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan, who worked 324 together.
Chicago optioned RHP Kervin Castro to Triple-A Iowa and selected RHP Nicholas Padilla from the farm club as the 27th man for the doubleheader. ... St. Louis added LHP Matthew Liberatore from Triple-A Memphis as its 27th man. The 22-year-old is rated as the Cardinals' top pitching prospect, but struggled in two previous stints with St. Louis this season.
Cardinals: Manager Oliver Marmol said he hopes RHP Ryan Helsley would return on Wednesday. Helsley was played on the paternity list on Friday, then moved to the restricted list on Monday.
Cubs: INF Patrick Wisdom (finger) remained out of the lineup. ... OF Jason Heyward (right knee inflammation) was transferred to the 60-day injured list. The five-time Gold Glove winner hasn’t played since June 24.
St. Louis RHP Jake Woodford (2-0, 2.66 ERA) was to face Chicago's Adrian Sampson (1-3, 3.51) in the nightcap.
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