Maddon on loss: 'We have to do a better job'

Despite taking two of three from Cards, streaking Cubs aim higher

Maddon on loss: 'We have to do a better job'

ST. LOUIS -- The Cubs were five outs away Wednesday afternoon from completing a sweep of the first-place Cardinals for the first time since September 2010, but they blew a two-run lead in the eighth and lost, 4-3. And it stung, which Cubs manager Joe Maddon thought may be the best lesson of all.

The Cardinals rallied to score three runs in the eighth off the Cubs' bullpen, including a go-ahead two-run double by Stephen Piscotty, to avoid being swept.

"We can't permit that to happen," Maddon said. "We played a great game. We had the right guys on their part of the batting order. We have to finish that game off."

Jon Lester served up two hits over seven innings and was in line for the win. The Cubs had chances, stranding nine and going 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Maddon called on Pedro Strop to pitch the eighth and he got Brandon Moss to fly out, but then he walked Mark Reynolds -- and that got the Cardinals rolling. Pinch-hitter Greg Garcia singled, and then lefty Clayton Richard faced Matt Carpenter, who hit an RBI single before Piscotty's double off Fernando Rodney.

"[Strop] is not making good pitches," Maddon said. "He gets the first guy out on the first pitch and walks the next guy. He gets the ground ball, and that happens to go through. It's the walk to Reynolds that set up the inning for them.

"We have to do a better job. Moments like that, looking at the way it matched up, we should be able to finish that game off. I think the guys would agree with that, too."

What can Maddon do about the bullpen?

"Just keep putting them out there," Maddon said. "It's like a shooter -- you have to keep shooting, man, until they go in the hoop."

Maddon could sense the Cubs were disappointed by taking two of three against the Cardinals.

"Most of the time, you'd be effusive -- 'We won two out of three,'" Maddon said. "We had a chance to go three out of three, and we failed. Ultimately, you'll take the two out of three, but I'm happy we're upset that we didn't [sweep them]."

And with that, Maddon turned on the music in his office, playing "Philadelphia Freedom" by Elton John. The Cubs are now headed to Philadelphia.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.