Rizzo returns but Cubs rally fizzles as Cards win 5-4

Call it a sense of duty that compelled Anthony Rizzo to play Thursday night for the Chicago Cubs.

“You get the questions of wait, wait a couple more days, but we don't have a couple more days; we've got to win now,” Rizzo said after taping up his sprained right ankle and heading out to play just four days after injuring it.

Rizzo did manage a home run, but the Cubs are indeed running out of tomorrows as they fell 5-4 in 10 innings to the St. Louis Cardinals, further damaging their postseason chances.

The Cubs rallied for 3 runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game against Cardinals closer Carlos Martinez. But Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel, fresh off the injured list, gave up a one-out solo homer to Matt Carpenter in the top of the 10th inning.

“Physically, I felt great,” said Kimbrel, who came back from an elbow ailment. “The ball was coming out of my hand good. I just missed my pitch. It just ran back over the plate.”

The Cards knocked the Cubs further back in the National League Central and out of the wild-card race for the time being. First-place St. Louis (86-67) continues to lead the second-place Milwaukee Brewers (83-70) by 3 games in the Central and the third-place Cubs (82-71) by 4. The Brewers also have sole possession of the second wild-card spot.

But the big story was Rizzo and the inspiration he might have provided.

Just minutes before the nationally televised game, Rizzo tested his sprained right ankle on the outfield grass in short left field under supervision of the team's athletic-training staff. He walked and jogged without a noticeable limp and then did some start-and-stop drills.

Shortly after that, Rizzo was announced as the Cubs' leadoff hitter and first baseman, a monumental surprise considering Rizzo suffered the moderate sprain this past Sunday and was widely considered to be out for most of the remainder of the regular season.

But home treatment and attention from the Cubs staff apparently did the trick.

“(Wednesday) I came in and it felt really good,” Rizzo said. “PJ (athletic trainer Mainville) said, ‘You're going to be moving around (Thursday).' I'm like, ‘There's no chance.' I took the first couple steps and, wow, it feels really good. I kept telling myself I'm fine, and right before the game I'm fine. I thought it would be sore today, but I was fine. This is an important weekend for us. We have to win. We have to win games, and we fell short today.”

There was some concern in the top of the third when Rizzo moved gingerly on fielding a bunt — a play on which he was injured Sunday — by Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty. Rizzo could not make the play, and Flaherty had a single to lead the bases.

The Cardinals scored a run in the inning to take a 1-0 lead, but Rizzo brought the house down in the bottom of the third when he hit a first-pitch homer to the opposite field in left to tie the game. Rizzo wound up playing six innings.

The Cardinals scored their second run against Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks in the fifth, and they added two in the sixth. Flaherty pitched 8 innings, giving up 3 hits.

Cubs' injury news mostly good as Rizzo, Kimbrel, Russell come back

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