CHICAGO – Despite a late rally, the Cardinals were just unable to pull off the come from behind win as St. Louis fell to Chicago 6-4 Saturday night in front of the largest crowd of the season (42,240 fans) at Wrigley Field.
“It’s real impressive how these guys were right there in a game that looked like it was going to get out of control,” Cardinals’ skipper Mike Matheny said. “I shouldn’t be surprised. It was a tough one. I imagine people are tired of hearing me say we keep fighting, but I am not tired of saying it because it is true.”
Trailing 6-1 after four innings, the Cardinals scored single runs in the seventh and eighth to cut the lead to 6-4, but also left four runners on base at the same time. In fact, the Cardinals stranded 13 base runners over the course of the game.
“We didn’t give up,” Cardinals’ center fielder Jon Jay said. “We kept fighting, but we came up short.”
Win no. 12 was not in the cards for St. Louis’ starting pitcher Lance Lynn as he was unable to make it out of the fifth inning. Lynn finished the night with 74 pitches over 4.1 innings of work. He struck out two and walked one while allowing a career-high 11 hits and 6 runs.
St. Louis took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second but it was all downhill from that point on as the Cubs rallied for three runs in the bottom half of the frame and the Cardinals never retook the lead.
“That is what this team is about,” Lynn said. “You are not going to quit until the game is over. If I had done a little bit better after giving up the three runs, we would have had a lot better chance to win.”
The inning started with a double by Alfonso Soriano. He then scored on a single and an error to tie the game. After a ground out, the Cubs got another single to take a 2-1 lead. An infield single by the Cubs put two runners on with one out before Matt Garza bunted a ball that Lynn was unable to field and loaded the bases.
“You make your own luck,” Lynn said. “Right now I am putting myself in a situation to not have success and I have got to turn that around.”
Lynn struck out the Cubs’ next batter but Starling Castro singled to score another run before Anthony Rizzo grounded out to end the inning with the Cubs up 3-1.
“Physical errors are going to happen,” Matheny said. “We have done a good job of keeping those down and not letting them escalate into big innings. You look at Lance (Lynn) again and he had one walk and had a couple of balls hit hard. The home run got him a little bit later, but, something definitely could have gone a little bit differently for him.”
Soriano contributed more damage in the third when he hammered Lynn’s first offering over the center field fence for his 16th home run of the year. It was also the 180th career homer for Soriano with the Cubs moving him into sole possession of 11th place on the franchise’s all time home run list.
St. Louis fell further behind in the fourth when Chicago’s Luis Valbuena cranked his eighth home run of the year, a two-run shot, into the right field seats.
“The two home runs,” Lynn said. “Those are probably the two worst pitches I threw and they cost me three runs and they put me in too big of a hole tonight.”
Lynn finally retired the leadoff batter in the bottom of the fifth, but after a pair of singles to the next two batters, Matheny pulled his starter in favor of rookie Keith Butler.
From that point on, the Cardinals used four different pitchers to shut out the Cubs the rest of the way. The bullpen combined for 3.2 scoreless innings with three strikeouts.
“We had an inning that was very uncharacteristic for us early on,” Matheny said. “It set a bad tone, but the bullpen came in and did a nice job and gave us an opportunity to get back in it and we were back in it.”
With 12 hits and five walks, St. Louis had several chances to pull the score closer.
“It was just one of those days where we had a bunch of hits,” Jay said. “But, we couldn’t – we just ended up short.”
With one out in the fourth, Matt Adams singled and moved to third on David Freese’s double. Jon Jay then popped out to shallow center and Adams was unable to tag. The Cubs walked Cruz intentionally to face Lynn and it worked as Lynn grounded out to end the inning, leaving the bases loaded.
St. Louis had two-out singles in the fifth and sixth, but again, nothing came of them. In the seventh, the Cardinals had a pair of one-out singles. Following a strikeout for the second out, Craig lined a ground ball through a hole between shortstop and third base to plate Carpenter. The RBI was Craig’s 73rd of the season and the run was Carpenter’s 72nd.
St. Louis got another run in the eighth.  After a strikeout to open the frame, Jay doubled and pinch hitter Shane Robinson walked, bringing another pinch hitter, Yadier Molina, to the plate with one out.
Molina’s drive down the right field line should have been caught, but fell for an error to load the bases. Carpenter then drove in Jay with a sacrifice fly to left. The other two runners were left stranded as Daniel Descalso flied out to center.
The final run came in the top of the ninth. With two out, Adams and Freese both walked. Jay then singled to plate Adams before pinch hitter Pete Kozma grounded out to short to end the game.
St. Louis left a multiple runners on base five different times. The Cardinals stranded a pair in each of the second, seventh and eighth innings while leaving the bases loaded in the fourth.
“Things kind of went their way,” Jay said. “That is just the way baseball goes. That’s why it is what it is. It’s a game of inches, a game of getting breaks and things just didn’t go our way today. They played better than us and that is the way it is.”
Jay led the Cardinals’ hitters, going 4-for-5 with a double, an RBI and a run scored. Also recording multiple hits was Adams, who turned in a 2-for-4 day with two runs scored and a free pass.
The Cardinals and Cubs will play their final game of the first half before the All Star break tonight with first pitch coming at 7:05 p.m. Adam Wainwright will take the mound for St. Louis in search of his 13th win of the season.