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Weaver struggles as Cards' streak snapped

MLB.com @JoeTrezz

CHICAGO -- Luke Weaver kicked his foot in an attempt to dodge, and tossed his head back in disbelief, the ball Anthony Rizzo hit shooting off the mound and past the diving reach of Paul DeJong. Soon Weaver flinched again, another pitch turned back in his direction before finding grass. A short time later, Weaver huddled in the dugout with Yadier Molina, looking for a way to turn around an afternoon he described as "head-scratching."

"But by that point," Weaver said, "it was too late."

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CHICAGO -- Luke Weaver kicked his foot in an attempt to dodge, and tossed his head back in disbelief, the ball Anthony Rizzo hit shooting off the mound and past the diving reach of Paul DeJong. Soon Weaver flinched again, another pitch turned back in his direction before finding grass. A short time later, Weaver huddled in the dugout with Yadier Molina, looking for a way to turn around an afternoon he described as "head-scratching."

"But by that point," Weaver said, "it was too late."

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When he looked up, the Cubs had turned nine hits into six runs over the game's first two frames. Eight were singles, harmless on their own but potent when strung together. Collectively, they handed Weaver his first loss on a death-by-a-thousand-cuts day that ended in an 8-5 defeat at Wrigley Field.

Video: STL@CHC: Weaver strikes out Contreras with a fastball

"My pitches weren't perfect. Today wasn't perfect," Weaver said. "But some decently-located pitches, and they're finding holes."

Few opponents have vexed Weaver over the course of his young career like the Cubs. They hit him hard in his MLB debut and spoiled the end of his breakout 2017 season. Thursday, they again left the righty searching for answers after two-rapid fire rallies proved enough to halt the Cardinals' winning streak at five.

Weaver now owns a 13.09 ERA in three career starts against the Cubs, and a 3.61 mark in 25 outings against everybody else.

"At this point I think they feel pretty good, and the results show that. It doesn't mean I go out there and let my guard down, let them walk all over me," Weaver said. "They're really a momentum-driven team. When it gets going, it's hard to stop them."

That much was evident on another frigid day in Chicago, where small ball ruled. Twelve of the Cubs' 14 hits went for singles, including run-scoring knocks from Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Rizzo and Albert Almora Jr. Bryant singled home Baez in the first, and Schwarber drove in Rizzo to bookend the damage against Weaver, who was lifted after four. Jason Heyward's two-run homer off reliever Matt Bowman put the game out of reach in the fifth.

Video: STL@CHC: Gyorko lines Cardinals' first hit in the 5th

By that point, the Cardinals had managed just one hit off winning pitcher Jon Lester, who breezed through six suffocating frames. St. Louis clawed back with a four-run small-ball rally against Eddie Butler and Steve Cishek in the seventh, and brought the tying run to the plate against Carl Edwards Jr. in the eighth. But Edwards struck out DeJong to set up Brandon Morrow's third save. Morrow threw a spotless ninth to end this truncated two-game series in a split, dashing the Cardinals' hopes of an undefeated six-game road trip.

"When you're down, 8-1, and you can get that tying run on and do something, that says a lot," manager Mike Matheny said. "Overall, good trip, but we try to break it down game by game. This was one where we were hoping to come in here and really go home on a nice feeling. That would have made it a heck of a road trip, but it already was."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Gregerson debuts: Luke Gregerson's team debut came in the sixth, when the righty was called on to diffuse a bases-loaded situation in an 8-1 game. Gregerson escaped the inning after one batter by inducing a double play off the bat of Addison Russell. Sidelined since the end of Spring Training due to a left hamstring strain, Gregerson's debut came more than 12 years after the Cardinals originally drafted him out of St. Xavier University in Chicago, where he grew up.

He warmed up Thursday wearing red spikes from one of his first Minor League seasons, which he kept at his offseason home. Gregerson changed out of them for the game, opting for newer shoes over nostalgia.

"Great debut there, getting us that ground ball," Matheny said.

Video: STL@CHC: Gregerson escapes a bases-loaded jam

SOUND SMART
The Cardinals scored three of their five runs without the benefit of a hit. Harrison Bader circled the bases on a steal, an error and a wild pitch after being hit with a pitch in the first. DeJong and Kolten Wong then drove in runs in the seventh with a walk and a hit-by-pitch, respectively. For DeJong, the RBI was his first of the season that didn't come courtesy of a home run.

Video: STL@CHC: Bader speeds home on Lester's wild pitch

ANOTHER DEBUT
Slugging outfield prospect Tyler O'Neill made his MLB debut as a pinch-hitter in the fifth after his white-hot start at Triple-A Memphis earned him a promotion this week. Ranked as the club's No.4 prospect by MLB Pipeline, O'Neill hit six homers over his first 12 games at Memphis, and now gives the club added depth as its fifth bench player. O'Neill's big league career began with a strikeout against Lester. More >

Video: STL@CHC: O'Neill gets called up to the Cardinals

UP NEXT
Tommy Pham (groin) should be back in the starting lineup when the Cardinals return home for the first of three against the Reds, beginning Friday at 7:15 p.m. CT. The Cardinals swept the Reds in Cincinnati last weekend, and have won nine straight head-to-head matchups dating back to last season. Michael Wacha will get the start opposite Brandon Finnegan.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com.

St. Louis Cardinals, Luke Weaver