Lackey, Cards cruise past Cubs, take series
ST. LOUIS -- Behind 7 2/3 strong innings and a rare run-scoring double from starter John Lackey, the Cardinals wrapped up their longest homestand of the season with a 5-1 victory over the Cubs in a Thursday matinee at Busch Stadium. Cubs starter Jake Arrieta, who lowered his career ERA against the Cardinals to 0.74 with seven shutout innings against St. Louis last month, was stung for five runs (four earned) by the bottom half of St. Louis' lineup.
Lackey joined Adam Wainwright as the only Cardinals to pitch into the eighth this season. The veteran righty scattered two hits over the first six innings before consecutive hits by Jorge Soler and Starlin Castro foiled Lackey's shutout bid in the seventh.
After playing six straight games determined by three or fewer runs, the Cardinals enjoyed some cushion in the series finale. Six-hole hitter Jason Heyward scored three runs and drove in one during his first three-hit day since the season opener. Peter Bourjos legged out an RBI triple in a two-run second and then sped home when right fielder Soler bobbled Lackey's double with two-out in the fourth. Arrieta, who was pulled after 5 1/3 innings, had previously allowed just three earned runs in 36 1/3 innings against the Cardinals.
"The big blow was Lackey's double," Arrieta said. "We have to be better all the way around. I think there's things we can clean up everywhere. They took three of four from us and we didn't play well enough."
Boasting a Major League-best 21 wins this season, the Cardinals finished the 11-game homestand with a 9-2 record. The Cubs have dropped six of their last eight.
"I saw a toughness in some big situations that you don't necessarily see," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of his team's recent stretch. "Sometimes you're waiting around to August to see that group that grinds. It's nice to see it early. That's the bar. That's what it should look like."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Double trouble: In addition to striking out a season-high 10 in his best start of the season, Lackey offered a bonus contribution with his bat. He was at the plate as three of the team's runs scored. Two came in when he snuck a fourth-inning double down the right-field line, past a diving Anthony Rizzo. Lackey, previously hitless on the year, had been without an extra-base hit and RBI since 2011.
"It was nice, for sure," Lackey said. "I don't have to look at zero on the board, at least. [Arrieta] has great stuff. I was late and got lucky there it went down the line."
Seeing red: Arrieta had not given up an earned run to the Cardinals in 20 consecutive innings before they scored in the second. With four earned runs in four innings off the right-hander, the Redbirds scored more runs Thursday against Arrieta than the three they totaled over 36 1/3 innings in six previous starts. He opened the season with four quality starts, but has not been able to finish the sixth in his last two. More >
Rest for the weary: In covering 7 2/3 innings, Lackey offered most of the relievers a much-needed day off as the club nears the end of a stretch of 20 games in 20 days. The last week had been especially burdensome on the bullpen, which had been asked to cover 35 innings over the seven games, three of which went to extra-innings. The Cardinals had not had a starter go beyond the seventh since April 19. More >
"It was good to have Lackey go deep into a game like that and give guys a day," said Trevor Rosenthal, who collected his 10th save. "You're going to have times like that when you're playing 37 times in 38 days where guys are going to have to fit in different roles and pick each other up."
"I'm totally OK with that. I'll take a rest. I have a one-game hitting streak." -- Lackey, when reminded that he won't get to bat in his next start, which will come Wednesday in Cleveland
"I'm not discouraged by this series. It's a long season, folks. We played really well for four games here. I like what I'm seeing out of our guys a lot, not a little bit. The pitching will come together. The young hitters will start figuring this stuff out. I could not be happier with the group." -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With 14 wins in their first 17 games at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals are off to their best start at home since 1889, when they were the St. Louis Browns. That season, the Browns went 15-2 at home to open the year.
Rookie Addison Russell extended his hitting streak to 10 games and is batting .343 (12-for-35) in that stretch. It's the longest hit streak by a Cubs rookie since Mike Fontenot's 12-game stretch in 2007.
Cubs: Jason Hammel will make his sixth start Friday when the Cubs open a three-game series against the Brewers. This will be a rematch of the righty's last start, which was at Wrigley Field. He gave up three runs over six innings to the Brewers, who won, 5-3. Hammel is 5-0 with a 2.20 ERA in seven career starts vs. Milwaukee. First pitch at Miller Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. CT.
Cardinals: The Cards head on the road for six games, beginning with the opener of a three-game series against the Pirates in Pittsburgh on Friday. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CT. Michael Wacha will start for the Cardinals, who swept a three-game series over the Pirates last weekend behind three extra-inning, walk-off wins.
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