ST. LOUIS -- An extra three days of rest did Lance Lynn no good, as the Cubs jumped on the starter for six quick runs en route to opening a key three-game series at Busch Stadium with a 9-0 pummeling of the Cardinals in a Labor Day matinee. It was the Cardinals' worst shutout loss to the Cubs since 1981, when, on this same date, the Cubs won by 10.
The Cubs, who sit 7 1/2 games behind the Cardinals in the National League Central, pulled to within two games of the top NL Wild Card by virtue of the Reds beating the Pirates. The Cardinals maintain a 5 1/2-game division advantage over Pittsburgh.
"I just liked the way we played," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We have to learn to play well in this venue. We have to become more comfortable in the venue, and then you play your normal game there and compete with this team. I thought we played well today."
Dexter Fowler opened the game with a home run, a harbinger of what was to come from Chicago's offense. The Cubs scored twice more in the second on Fowler's run-scoring double and then plated five while chasing Lynn in the third. Lynn, who was charged with six of those runs, lasted just 2 1/3 innings in his first start since spraining his right ankle.
"I was having trouble getting people out from the get-go," Lynn said. "I just didn't have any command. The ball was all over the place. Early on, I was all over the zone, and when I started making pitches, they were already locked in and I couldn't do anything about it. I have to be better early on."
Addison Russell punctuated the inning with a three-run blast off reliever Seth Maness, and has 13 home runs and three in his last four games.
"I know I set my standards pretty high, but I didn't think I'd be here at this point right now," Russell said.
The Cardinals did not get anything started against Cubs right-hander Dan Haren, who made his longest start since joining the organization on July 31. His seven shutout innings helped run the Cubs' winning streak to four games and give them just their second win in eight games at Busch Stadium this season.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Start me up: Cubs rookies get most of the attention, but Fowler is having a stellar year. He belted his career-high 17th home run in the first -- and 14th career leadoff blast -- and also hit a two-run double in the second. He has scored a career-high 90 runs, and there's still four weeks to go.
"Everybody is talking about everybody else, but post All-Star break, [Fowler] may be the biggest reason our offense is good," Maddon said.
Rapid unraveling: With his club already trailing, 5-0, in the third inning, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny pulled Lynn and called on Maness, the team's double-play specialist. Instead of inducing a twin killing to keep the deficit manageable, Maness allowed a hit to Haren and then served up a three-run blast to Russell. It was the fifth home run allowed by Maness this season and the first since July 30.
Workmanlike: Haren helped himself in his seventh start for the Cubs by hitting a single in the third and a sacrifice fly in the fifth. The right-hander, who has maded some mechanical adjustments, posted his longest outing with the Cubs, giving up seven hits over seven shutout innings. This was his second win since he joined Chicago.
"It feels good to go deep in a game like that," Haren said.
Last gasp: The Cardinals had few opportunities to climb back in against Haren but missed their best chance by leaving the bases full in the fourth. After a pair of hits and a walk loaded the bases with one out, Tommy La Stella made a tough catch on Jon Jay's popup in foul territory. Mark Reynolds then flew out to end the threat.
"We talk about that a lot -- guys that look different, who have something outside the box as a pitcher. And he has that," Matheny said of Haren, whom he caught early in Haren's career. "He's a guy who has learned how to pitch and put more movement on the ball, and [he] kept us off balance."
"You've got to get the team in front of you first. I've said from the beginning, our objective was to win the division. You've got to catch the group in front of you and move on to the next one. Let's just play tomorrow like we played today." -- Maddon
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Russell's three-run homer was the 57th by a Cubs rookie this season, one shy of the team's all-time record set in 1966 by rookies Randy Hundley (19 homers), Byron Browne (16), Adolfo Phillips (16), John Boccabella (six), and Fergie Jenkins (one).
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Right fielder Jason Heyward was awarded a leadoff double in the fourth inning after the Cardinals successfully challenged a foul call by first-base umpire Brian Knight on Heyward's line drive down the right-field line. Replay showed that the ball kicked up part of the chalk along the foul line and bounced into the stands.
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs:Jason Hammel gets the start Tuesday in the second game of this three-game series. The right-hander has gone beyond six innings once in his last 10 starts. In his last outing against the Reds, which was on his 33rd birthday, he served up four runs over five innings. He's 0-1 in two starts against the Cardinals this season. First pitch will be 7:15 p.m. CT.
Cardinals:Michael Wacha will start on 10 days' rest against the Cubs on Tuesday night. The Cardinals made a last-minute decision to skip Wacha's scheduled start last Wednesday to buy the right-hander some extra rest. Over 12 career September appearances (six starts), Wacha is 4-0 with a 1.70 ERA.