Happ homers twice, Steele pitches Cubs over Cardinals 9-1 in MLB's return to London

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Fans watch a baseball game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs Saturday, June 24, 2023, in London. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

LONDON – Pushing back the outfield fences in London couldn’t keep Ian Happ in the ballpark.

Happ refound his power stroke with a pair of solo home runs, pitcher Justin Steele used the crowd's energy to zap a rally attempt and the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 9-1 on Saturday night in Major League Baseball’s pandemic-delayed return to the British capital.

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Happ led off the second inning against Adam Wainwright with a drive to straightaway center at London Stadium and put another pitch over the right-field fence in the third as the Cubs won their fourth straight game.

“They were both really well struck,” Happ said. “He’s the kind of guy that you just love to compete against.”

Happ crossed the pond with just five homers this season. He had his 11th career multihomer game, his first since last Aug. 22. Six of the last seven homers Wainwright allowed to the Cubs have been hit by Happ.

“He was trying to get a sinker in and it just kind of leaked a little bit,” Happ said of the go-ahead drive. “ I put a good swing on it. That second at bat, same thing got to two strikes, and he left that curveball just up probably a little higher than he wanted.”

Chicago used a series of two-out hits to pile up runs against Wainwright (3-2), who was pulled after back-to-back doubles starting the fourth. He allowed 11 hits — one short of his career high — and a season-high seven runs in the shortest of his nine starts this season.

A “perfect storm of horribleness" was Wainwright's analysis.

“When I did try to spin something hard, I either hung it like I did to Happ or I threw it about a foot outside," he said. "My corrections were overcorrections, and the balls that I did get on the plate were in the middle of the plate.”

A crowd of 54,662, MLB's largest this season, filled London Stadium, some singing “Go Cubs Go." Chicago (37-38) has won nine of 10 and with a win Sunday could get back to .500 for the first time in more than a month.

The Cubs had more hits (14) than swings and misses (10). Nine of the hits were with two outs.

St. Louis, last in the NL Central at 31-45, lost its second straight following a four-game winning streak.

Happ was “very aware” the walls were moved back from four years ago, when the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox totaled 50 runs in two games.

His first homer cleared the 16-foot fence in center, a wall pushed back 7 feet to 392 from MLB's European debut. The ball hit at about the spot where West Ham, the stadium's home team in the Premier League, has its “Hammers” logo concealed by the high fence and blacked out seats.

Steele (8-2) allowed five hits in six innings and struck out eight, matching his season high. He squashed a Cardinals mini-rally with three consecutive strikeouts ending the sixth.

Paul Goldschmidt singled home Tommy Edman before Nolan Arenado singled to put two on. Steele got Willson Contreras and Jordan Walker swinging and, after a wild pitch moved the runners up, threw a called third strike past Dylan Carlson.

“It was really cool to cap it off like that, get out of a big situation like that,” Steele said.

Pitching in London is “something I’ll never forget... I felt the energy in the stadium. It just locked me a little bit more in.

The left-hander kept the Cardinals hitless before a leadoff single in the fifth by Walker, who has the longest active hitting streak at 14 games.

Dansby Swanson hit a two-run homer with two outs in the ninth. Christopher Morel had three hits on his 24th birthday and No. 9 hitter Nick Madrigal was 2 for 4.

The Red Sox and Yankees had a marathon first inning in their first game in London. It was 6-6 after one frame. This time around, it was a tidy 1-2-3 inning on both sides.


Goldschmidt became the first big leaguer to play a regular-season game in five countries. The reigning NL MVP added a Britain stamp to his baseball passport on Saturday. He played in Mexico with the Cardinals four years ago and in Australia with Arizona in 2014, in addition to the United States and Canada. The Elias Sports Bureau said 16 others reached the four-country mark. Goldschmidt went 1 for 3 with an RBI and a walk.


Much had changed since the 2019 games, when Britain was part of the European Union and “God Save the Queen” was played along with “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Brexit took place the following winter and King Charles III took over as monarch last September after the death of Elizabeth II, resulting in the teams standing along the foul lines for “God Save the King.” Actor and Chicago fan Bill Murray — or as the team said “ Cubs royalty ” — was in the house.


Cubs: SS Swanson (wrist) was back in the lineup after being held out of Wednesday's 8-3 win over Pittsburgh as a precaution.

Cardinals: Reliever Jordan Hicks was unavailable because of illness. Hicks had a save in three straight wins this week. Infielder Nolan Gorman also was ill and has limited availability.


NL ERA leader Marcus Stroman (9-4, 2.28 ERA) is 7-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his last seven starts going into Sunday's series finale. Left-hander Matthew Liberatore (1-2, 6.12 ERA) will start for the Cardinals after Jack Flaherty was scratched because of hip tightness.


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