Chicago has only 13 wins total this season.
"This is the worst we've seen," said manager Mike Matheny, whose team sags back below .500 for the third time this month. "I don't think it's fair to compare what happened today with what happened this season. ... That's not what we've seen all year, and that's not the message of today. Today was a bad game. That's not how we've been playing."
By the end, the Cardinals had given up more hits (20) and more runs than in any home game since 2010. It takes a 40-year rewind to find the last time the Cubs scored 17 runs in St. Louis, that 19-4 win coming at Busch Stadium II.
Each player in Chicago's lineup finished with a hit, including four from leadoff man Emilio Bonifacio, who became the first Cubs player since Jody Davis (June 3, 1987) to score five runs in a game. Hitting behind him, outfielder Junior Lake posted a career-best six-RBI night.
The Cubs had just finished a three-game series against Atlanta in which they scored four total runs.
"That's what makes baseball so much fun," Cubs third baseman Mike Olt said. "You never know what's going to happen. We came out aggressive today and carried through the whole game."
They did ambush Cardinals starter Tyler Lyons to take a 7-0 lead before Lyons could collect his fifth out. Five batters into the game, Chicago had already hit for the cycle, using Starlin Castro's RBI triple and a two-run homer from Olt to post an early four-run advantage.
Lake joined Olt with a jog around the bases by connecting for a three-run blast in the second inning. Lake continues to be a nuisance to the Cardinals, too, as he improved to 9-for-20 (including three home runs) against them.
"Some of them I felt were out on the corners, maybe up a little bit," Lyons said of his mistake pitches. "I felt really good in the bullpen. I felt really good even the first couple innings. The results just weren't there. I didn't make pitches."
Lyons, starved for run support but having pitched well in his first three spot starts, was clubbed for nine runs in four innings. It was the first time a Cardinals starter had been tagged for more than six runs in a game this season. Lyons had given up only eight in his first 21 innings as the team's fill-in fifth starter.
This shelling also made his grip on a rotation spot more tenuous. As Lyons was getting knocked about, another lefty, Jaime Garcia, was making a five-inning rehab start in Triple-A. Garcia would seem a strong candidate to swap places with Lyons once ready.
"Tyler had a rough start, no question about it," Matheny said. "It looked like just getting the ball in the middle of the plate. Regardless of what pitch it was, it looked like he was finding more of the plate than he was looking for, and they didn't miss them."
The Cardinals' offense made a spirited attempt to start cutting away at the deficit against Cubs starter Travis Wood. With two runs in the second and another three in the fifth, St. Louis pulled to within four runs.
Yadier Molina had a hit in both run-scoring innings. Matt Holliday contributed an RBI double and Mark Ellis an RBI single. The Cubs assisted, too, with an error from Lake and a pair of hit batsmen by Wood. Eric Fornataro later hit Wood with a pitch to open the sixth.
"I guess that's the limit," Wood said, laughing. "Hit two guys and you get hit yourself. It is what it is."
"[The Cardinals] don't quit. You continue to grind and play," added Cubs manager Rick Renteria, who challenged a call at the plate (and won) with his team already up six. "The Cardinals don't give up. You don't take anything for granted."
And so the Cubs kept piling on, beginning with two runs off Fornataro in the sixth and another six against Randy Choate in a 10-batter ninth. Fornataro was pushed to throw 39 pitches in two innings since the Cardinals lack a defined long reliever. He is the likely candidate to return to Triple-A when the Cardinals, as Matheny suggested they would, make a roster move Tuesday to add a fresh arm to the 'pen.
Descalso eventually had to bail Choate out of the ninth after the lefty allowed six runs on seven hits. He had given up only seven hits and three runs in 11 1/3 innings coming into Monday. Descalso induced a second-pitch flyout of Olt to end the onslaught.
"I just went out there," he said, "and did what I was asked to do."
It was the first time this season Matheny had summoned a position player to pitch.
"It's embarrassing to have to put him into that spot," Matheny said. "He's a team guy and understands, but we should have never been in that spot to begin with. It's tough for all of us to watch."