ST. LOUIS -- Manager Joe Maddon tried to shake up the Cubs' sluggish offense by returning to a familiar lineup on Friday, but the Cardinals' Miles Mikolas had other ideas.
Tommy Pham smacked a three-run homer off Jose Quintana to back Mikolas and lead the Cardinals to a 3-2 victory over the Cubs at Busch Stadium. Chicago now has lost three in a row for the first time this year, while St. Louis moved into first place in the National League Central Division with the win. The Cubs aren't panicking.
"We know how good we are -- that's it, plain and simple," Chicago's Albert Almora Jr. said. "We're a confident group. We're not going to go 162-0. We have to come back [Saturday], day game, work hard, and be ready to go."
Pham connected in the second off Quintana, who needed 88 pitches to get through four innings, his second shortest outing of the season, and had to deal with baserunners each inning.
"It was a battle for me," Quintana said. "I kept battling with my delivery most of the time. Too many high counts and that's the reason I left early in the game. It was a little frustrating for me because I wanted to go longer. I believe one pitch changed the game."
The Cubs were 5-2 in their last seven games but the offense has sputtered, totaling 14 earned runs in that stretch. Maddon tried to jump-start the group on Friday by putting Benjamin Zobrist back in the leadoff spot and Zobrist did single to open the game, but that was one of seven hits off Mikolas, who went seven-plus scoreless innings. The Cardinals starter exited after serving up Kristopher Bryant's leadoff double in the eighth.
Mikolas was on the Cubs' radar this offseason but he signed with the Cardinals.
"It makes you feel good inside [beating the Cubs] but I think it's a bigger win for the team, it being a rivalry like it is," Mikolas said. "It's great to go out and have a good game against them."
The Cubs finally tallied in the ninth against Bud Norris, scoring on a pinch-hit RBI single by Thomas La Stella and a run-scoring groundout by Zobrist.
The Cubs now have scored three or fewer runs in nine consecutive games, their longest streak since an 11-game stretch during the 2006 season when they scored three runs or fewer in 11 straight games.
"You just have to keep fighting through it," Maddon said. "There's not a whole lot you can do about it. We've seen some good pitching but that's not an excuse. We expect better from ourselves. You just keep staying with the tried-and-true stuff. You believe in your guys, you know they're going to hit. The good part is we've won a lot of these close games. We're going to score runs."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Nailing Carpenter: The Cardinals threatened in the first when they had runners at first and second with one out. Marcell Ozuna singled to left and Matt Carpenter tried to score from second, but left fielder Kyle Schwarber threw Carpenter out at home.
2nd goes south: Quintana couldn't escape a mess in the Cardinals' second. William Fowler reached on a throwing error by shortstop Javier Baez and advanced on Jedd Gyorko's single. Two outs later, Quintana fell behind 2-0 to Pham, then threw a 91.5-mph fastball, which Pham launched to left for his fifth home run and a 3-0 lead.
"It's unusual for us to see [Baez] make those kind of mistakes," Maddon said of the error, which was the infielder's eighth so far. "He got a little too quick there. He had time. I do think this is an anomaly moment -- he's one of the best defenders in all of baseball. Stuff happens. Sometimes you don't hit, sometimes you make mistakes on defense. It always surprises us when he makes a mistake on defense."
Baez is not on a good pace, error-wise.
"Obviously, 'Q' had to get four outs and it's not easy to get three," Baez said. "I'm not going to say it was on me. If I got that out, we'd be out of that inning.
"This year, there's been many errors that are routine," he said. "That can't be happening."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Almora couldn't snare Jose Martinez's fly ball in the first inning, which ended up as a single. But Almora robbed Martinez of another potential hit with one out in the seventh when he made a running one-handed catch in left center.
"Hey, I'm human," Almora said about the miss in the first inning. "I was super close. It hit the top of my glove. That ate me up. I made that play [in the seventh] and put a little extra flair on it to make up for it."
HE SAID IT
"It's too early for me. We've played them well. We just haven't been swinging the bats. If we're on top of our offensive game, I'd have a better feel for it." -- Maddon, when asked to gauge the Cardinals at this point with their additions to the roster
Tyler Chatwood is coming off a stellar win against the Brewers in which he gave up two hits over seven scoreless innings. He relied on his two-seam fastball to get ground balls and strikeouts. He's 0-3 with a 6.32 ERA in five games (two starts) against the Cardinals. First pitch is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. CT Saturday at Busch Stadium.