ST. LOUIS -- Seeking a start that would not only cap an 11-game homestand with a win but also offer rest for a weary bullpen, the Cardinals found the necessary boost from starter John Lackey.
Lackey's 7 2/3-inning start in the Cardinals' 5-1 win over the Cubs on Thursday was the longest by a St. Louis starter since Adam Wainwright finished eight innings April 19. Though the Cards still called upon three relievers to collect the final four outs, the bullpen was able to reset in advance of another intradivision series with the Pirates this weekend.
"Everybody knew we needed a good outing today," manager Mike Matheny said. "We needed somebody to take us deep and give us a real good shot and take some of the workload off the 'pen. John knew that. But the longer you're around, the more you're able to focus to bring your stuff to make it happen. Today was one of his best."
Lackey's career track record as a workhorse is especially notable now that the Cardinals are down one 200-inning starter for the season. With Lackey as only one of two pitchers in the rotation to hit that innings benchmark previously -- he's done it five times -- the Cardinals will ask he carry a heavy a load.
"I'd like to finish them all," Lackey said. "Every time I pitch, I like to go deep. There might have been a little more importance with it today because of usage."
Lackey breezed through five innings on 62 pitches before dialing back to strike out Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo with a runner in scoring position in the sixth. Lackey struck out Bryant three times en route to notching a season-high 10 whiffs.
Lackey acknowledged that he was tapped out by the time Matheny took the ball from him with two out in the eighth. He walked off the fielding tipping his cap to a standing ovation.
"I feel like it's kind of been building the last couple starts," Lackey said. "Today was probably the best I've felt so far."