Anthony Rizzo had his cake Friday.
He ate it — and wore it — too, after the Cubs pestered the Cardinals just enough for a 3-2 victory at Wrigley Field to end the team’s season-high losing streak at six.
The first baseman, whose marriage proposal to girlfriend Emily Vakos was accepted Thursday night, helped the Cubs to victory Friday with heady baserunning and a bit of fortune.
He stuck his face into the engagement cake the team brought for him in a celebration afterward.
“It tasted better after a victory,” Rizzo said.
Rizzo was gifted a double to lead off the eighth inning when Cardinals left fielder Magneuris Sierra’s lost the ball in the bright sky. It was the first of two sun-aided extra-base hits to affect the outcome.
Rizzo alertly slid into third base on Ben Zobrist’s groundout to third to put himself — and the Cubs — within 90 feet of the lead. He jogged home with ease on Jason Heyward’s sacrifice fly to deep center field to help ensure a strong outing from John Lackey wasn’t wasted in the loss column.
“We needed a win,” said Rizzo, who walked his first three times up. “It doesn’t matter if it’s versus the Cardinals or a college team.”
The Cubs haven’t lost seven in a row since Sept. 5-12, 2014.
And Lackey, Heyward, Rizzo and Kris Bryant weren’t about to join that club, even if the Cubs had just five hits.
Cardinals right fielder Stephen Piscotty lost his battle with the sun on Heyward’s game-tying double that scored Rizzo in the sixth. Kris Bryant hit a home run in the third for the Cubs’ first run.
“We did just enough,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We haven’t been playing badly. We just have not been hitting.
“You can’t say we killed it today offensively. We pitched well enough. You have to pitch better than good pitching to win some days, and we did that.”
After former Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler smacked Lackey’s 3-2 pitch for his 23rd career leadoff home run in the first, and Sierra singled home Aledmys Diaz in the second, Lackey didn’t allow another hit in five innings.
He gave up four and two walks in his season-high-tying seven innings, and struck out six in his 25th consecutive start of at least five innings.
“This is going to sound weird, but I started throwing fewer strikes,” Lackey said.
When told 62 of his 99 pitches were, in fact, strikes, Lackey grinned.
“They swung a lot,” he said. “Sometimes you can throw too many strikes. There can be too many things that are hittable. I have a reputation as a strike-thrower so I get a lot of early swings. Sometimes throwing something out of the zone is not a bad thing.”
The Cubs needed his performance. They have scored just 12 runs in their last seven games, including Friday’s.
They entered the game last in the National League with a .209 average with runners in scoring position, a number that increased ever so slightly after the Cubs went 1-for-4 in such scenarios Friday.
“The Bryant home run did perk everybody up,” Maddon said. “There’s no question, we need to get more consistent, well-struck balls.”
There was no question Fowler struck his well, one of Lackey’s few mistakes.
Only after some hesitation did the fan who retrieved the souvenir follow stadium protocol and throw it back onto the field.
Pedro Strop saved the day in the eighth when he struck out Yadier Molina to end the inning with the bases loaded.
Wade Davis saved the game when he retired the Cardinals in order in the ninth for his 11th save.
Then it was on to cake for the Cubs.