Cards' bats grounded as Cubs take opener

Cards' bats grounded as Cubs take opener

Cards' bats grounded as Cubs take opener

ST. LOUIS -- At times, the Cardinals' hot bats have been contagious, sparking production throughout the lineup. Lately, it appears that trend may have headed in the wrong direction as the offense runs cold.

The Cardinals struggled to back up Lance Lynn's solid outing Friday night, failing to provide him with any run support as the Cardinals fell, 3-0, to the Cubs in front of 42,664 at Busch Stadium.

"You're going to have times where you're just not going to be able to produce offensively," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think we're all just kind of fed up with excuses. When it comes down to the bottom line, [we've] gotta score runs, gotta score more than them, gotta keep runs from scoring. They get it."

St. Louis has now dropped three straight and lost 12 of its last 16 games. The Cardinals have been shut out in three of the losses and scored just one run in four others.

"They can roll out of control sometimes and right now we've got some things rolling in a direction that we need to stop," Matheny said.

The three-hour, 14-minute contest culminated in frustration when Daniel Descalso was ejected by home-plate umpire David Rackley for arguing a called third strike. Matheny took issue with the ejection and was also tossed while arguing with Rackley.

"Danny's a scrappy player," Matheny said. "He knows how big that situation is, any chance we get a guy on base. He felt strongly about where the strike zone was and he didn't feel like it was a strike. I don't want our guys rolling over."

Lynn entered this weekend's series with the Cubs as the Cardinals' run support leader, yet the 5.9 runs per game he was accustomed to getting were nowhere to be found Friday.

The right-hander didn't face more than four batters in an inning until the seventh when he walked two and gave up a run-scoring single to Junior Lake. Lynn plunked Cole Gillespie on the next at-bat before handing the ball off to left-handed specialist Randy Choate as the Cubs' lefty first baseman Anthony Rizzo stepped into the box.

"You walk two in an inning, then you hit a guy, you should give up some runs," Lynn said. "I definitely brought that on myself in the seventh inning, but other than that I thought I threw the ball well."

Choate yielded a single to Rizzo that trickled into center field, allowing Welington Castillo and Darwin Barney to reach home safely, before he struck out Logan Watkins to halt the run.

Lynn came up short in his bid to surpass teammate Adam Wainwright and Washington's Jordan Zimmermann with what would have been a National League-best 14 wins, holding the three-way tie at 13. Lynn allowed three earned runs on three hits and five walks. He fanned five and hit two batters.

The five free passes matched a season high he set on May 13 against the Mets.

"Some of the walks were kind of unintentional, intentional, getting myself in situations where I thought I could be successful," Lynn said, pointing to the second walk in the seventh against Barney.

"You have a pinch-hitter rookie coming up next, you're thinking I'm not giving him anything to hit," Lynn said. "I got the next guy out, that wasn't the problem. ... [Lake] just flicked a pitch that wasn't even a strike out into center field."

The only other time Lynn allowed two baserunners, he erased it by turning Gillespie's grounder for two in the third.

The Cardinals were knocking at the door, pushing runners into scoring position three times, but Cubs starter Chris Rusin was able to escape unscathed each time against a team that entered the game batting .335 with runners in scoring position.

"I was able to get ahead in the count with first-pitch strikes, and that helped me out and I didn't get beat by the heart of the lineup," Rusin said. "I got away with one with [Allen] Craig -- the wind was blowing in or something [because] I don't know how it didn't go out. I got away with that one and didn't make any more big mistakes."

With the loss to Rusin, the Cardinals are now 12-18 against left-handed starters.

"That could be an excuse and we're not going there," Matheny said. "For whatever reason, we're having a tough way finding wins, whether it's lefties, righties, whatever. And we just got to find a way."

Jon Jay sparked some life for St. Louis each time he stepped to the plate, going 3-for-4 with two doubles and a single, though the Cubs worked around Jay's doubles by intentionally walking Pete Kozma twice to get to Lynn for the final out. Jay got on again in the sixth with a single, but Kozma, in his first opportunity to hit, grounded into a double play.

Jay has hit safely in 10 of his last 12 games with multihit games in four of the last seven and has 15 hits in August.

"We play to win, it's not about individual results," Jay said. "It's definitely frustrating when you can't score runs, but tomorrow's a new day, and we still have plenty of games left. We're a good team, so we just got to keep pushing."

Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.