Game Report: Cubs 7, Cardinals 0

By Rob Rains

If the Cardinals were hoping to send a message this week that they are not really as far behind the Cubs as the difference in the NL Central standings would indicate, it didn’t happen.

The Cardinals did manage to win one of the three games at Busch, in a game in which their starter did not get through the second inning, but were almost no hit in the first game and were shut out on Wednesday.

The loss Wednesday kept the Cardinals on the outside of a wild-card playoff spot, behind the Giants and Mets, as they head to San Francisco to begin a 10-game trip with a four-game series Thursday night against the Giants.

Carlos Martinez had his worst start in more than a month and Anthony Rizzo hit two homers for the Cubs, who got eight shutout innings from Jon Lester to win their 93rd game of the year. They lead the Cardinals by 17 games.

The loss also guaranteed the Cardinals will finish with their first losing season at home since 1999, when they were 38-42.

Here is ho the game broke down:

At the plate:
The Cardinals had only three hits off Lester, all singles, and had two runners thrown out trying to steal second. Stephen Piscotty had an infield hit in the fourth, Randal Grichuk singled in the fifth and Yadier Molina’s hit came in the eighth … Their only other baserunner was Aledmys Diaz, who walked in the first and was one of the runners thrown out, along with Grichuk .. It was the first time since July 6 the Cardinals had Matt Carpenter and Diaz in the top two spots in the batting order, but they were a combined 0-for-6 … The Cardinals now have 32 stolen bases and have had 25 runners caught stealing, a success rate of just 56 percent.

On the mound
: Martinez allowed an RBI single to Lester, only his fourth hit of the year, and a two-run homer by the eighth-place hitter, David Ross, in addition to the first of Rizzo’s two homers. It was the first time since Aug. 6 Martinez allowed more than three runs in a game. He had been 4-0 in his last five starts with a 1.85 ERA. It was the second time this season he allowed two homers in a game, the other time in the Aug. 6 game against the Braves … Twelve of the 14 homers allowed by Martinez this season have come at home … Michael Wacha, activated from the DL before the game, made his first regular-season relief appearance since Aug. 28, 2013 and allowed the final three runs, including the second homer by Rizzo, a two-run shot … Before Wacha allowed the three runs, Cardinal relievers combined had given up just one earned run in their last 18 1/3 innings over six games.

Key stat:
The Cardinals challenged the out call on Grichuk at second base in the fifth inning but after review the call was allowed to stand. The Cardinals have won just 25 of 48 challenges this season, a success rate of 52 percent.

Of note:
Half of Lester’s eight career hits have come in 14 at-bats against the Cardinals … Rizzo is the third Cub to hit two homers In a game at Busch 3. Jorge Soler did it in 2014 and Derrek Lee in 2010 … The shutout was the second by the Cubs in nine games in St. Louis this year … When Lester was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the top of the ninth it guaranteed that the last pitcher to shut out the Cardinals at Busch remains Kyle Kendrick of the Phillies on May 26, 2012.

Looking ahead:
After the four games in San Francisco, the Cardinals will play three at Colorado and three at Chicago before returning home for the final seven games of the regular season. Adam Wainwright will get the start in the opener against the Giants’ Johnny Cueto. The game begins at 9:15 p.m. St. Louis time.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains