The Cubs avoided another shutout. But their Wrigley Field woes continue.
Adam Wainwright struck out 11 in seven innings and Jon Jay homered and drove in four runs as the St. Louis Cardinals handed the Cubs a 6-1 defeat Sunday. The Cubs fell to 2-13 in their past 15 home games, and 5-15 in their past 20 games overall.
A dropped fly ball in center field by Junior Lake led to the Cardinals scoring two of their three runs in the second inning. Jay’s three-run home run in the seventh put the game away for the Cardinals, who improved to 9-7 against Chicago this season.
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Making matters even worse, manager Dale Sveum and reliever James Russell were both ejected during a seventh-inning argument with home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi.
“There wasn’t many good things that happened,” said Sveum, who was ejected for the fifth time this season. “The dropped fly ball led to some things that could have (made) it a different game. We could have gotten out that with one run (allowed) early.”
The Cubs, who haven’t won a home series since taking two-of-three from the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 5-7, have scored only 12 runs in their past eight home games.
Junior Lake drove in their only run with a sixth-inning double. Chicago (53-70) had been blanked in five of its previous seven home games, including Saturday’s 4-0 loss to the Cardinals.
Once again a Cubs starter pitched effectively only to receive little support. Edwin Jackson (7-13) went six innings, allowing six hits and only one earned run. He struck out three and walked four in throwing a season-high 117 pitches.
“This is a tough team and I wanted to keep the game within striking distance,” Jackson said. “I challenged them, but there were times when I could have come out and gotten ahead of them in counts early in the game and saved myself some pitches.”
The Cardinals (71-52) put runners on in every inning against Jackson, but only scored in the second.
Back-to-back doubles by Yadier Molina and Jay gave the Cardinals a quick 1-0 lead in the second inning. But they weren’t finished, thanks to Lake’s miscue.
Lake was able to get in position to make a catch on a Kolten Wong drive to center, but the ball glanced off the outside of his glove for a two-base error.
“As a pitcher, things are going to happen,” Jackson said. “You only can worry about what you can control. It’s just one of those things you battle through and try to do damage control.”
Jackson nearly got out of it without the error hurting. But after issuing an intentional walk and getting Wainwright to fly out to shallow left, Jackson surrendered a two-run single to Matt Carpenter that made it 3-0.
Wainwright kept the Cubs’ bats mostly silent through 5 ⅔ innings. His only blemishes prior to the sixth were Lake’s one-out single in the first, and a leadoff single by Starlin Castro in the third. Neither hit made it to the outfield.
Lake was erased on a double play, while Castro was forced at second for the inning-ending out. Wainwright faced only 16 batters through five innings, striking out seven, including two each in the fourth and fifth.
But after retiring nine consecutive batters, Wainwright stumbled in the sixth. David DeJesus drew a two-out walk, and scored on a double by Lake into left-center to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 3-1.
Wainwright ended the threat by freezing Anthony Rizzo on a called third strike.
“He’s always good,” Rizzo said of Wainwright, who improved to 6-0 lifetime at Wrigley. “He’s Adam Wainwright. He knows how to pitch. Nothing overpowering, he just knows how to pitch and was himself today.”
It was Rizzo who had given Cubs fans the only thing to cheer about in the first five innings.
Rizzo tracked a high foul ball hit by Yadier Molina, then reached as far as he could to make the catch on top of the Cardinals dugout. Rizzo might have fallen over the dugout fence were it not for a Cardinals player helping to keep him up.
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“That’s good sportsmanship,” Rizzo said. “I probably would have went in pretty hard there.”
The Cardinals added to their lead in the seventh on Jay’s three-run homer, his sixth of the season.
Sveum was ejected in the bottom of the inning after Cuzzi ruled Donnie Murphy offered at a third strike. Murphy argued the call, and Sveum joined in from the dugout before Cuzzi tossed him out.
That brought Sveum onto the field for a face-to-face argument with Cuzzi before third-base ump and crew chief Tom Hallion broke it up.
“It wasn’t questionable,” Sveum said of the call. “That’s easily the worst check-swing call I’ve ever seen.”
Somewhere in the excitement Hallion also ejected Russell, who had replaced Carlos Villanueva in the seventh and gave up Jay’s home run.
Also lost in the scuffle was a promising start to the inning. Nate Schierholtz and Welington Castillo opened with back-to-back singles to put runners on first and second.
But Wainwright struck out the side to squash the rally, starting with the disputed call on Murphy. Wainwright (14-7) allowed five hits and one run with one walk while throwing 106 pitches.
The Cubs threatened in the eighth against reliever Kevin Siegrist. But David DeJesus was thrown out at home by left fielder Matt Holliday.