Wood loses steam in matchup with Cards ace

Lefty stung for six earned runs; Wainwright cruises to 20th win

Wood loses steam in matchup with Cards ace

CHICAGO -- The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw became the Major Leagues' first 20-game winner Friday with a victory over the Cubs. On Monday night, it was Adam Wainwright's turn.

Wainwright struck out eight over seven stellar innings and Jon Jay drove in three runs to lead the Cardinals to an 8-0 victory over the Cubs, and move St. Louis another step closer to claiming the National League Central title for the second year in a row.

The Cardinals spoiled Travis Wood's final start of the year. The lefty served up seven runs -- six earned -- over five innings, and finished the season with a 5.03 ERA in his 31 starts. Wood totaled 200 innings last year and came up short this year with 173 2/3. He posted 24 quality starts in 2013 but just 13 this season.

"I did feel better about it than the numbers [show]," Wood said of his outing. "I made some good pitches tonight and pitches were sharp, but they got the hits when they needed them and dropped a couple in, perfectly placed, and that's how it's been going. We have to take it into the offseason and figure out how to keep that from happening, and not let the big innings happen."

Wood looked like the 2013 version over the first three innings when he held the Cardinals to one hit and struck out five. But St. Louis sent eight batters to the plate in the fourth, tallying on an RBI double by Jhonny Peralta, RBI single by Yadier Molina and two-run single by Jay. A telling stat is that hitters are batting .247 against Wood the first time through the lineup and .274 the second time.

"[Wood] was making a lot of good pitches early," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He was painting both sides, especially he had that first-base side pretty dialed in and wasn't giving them a whole lot to work with. But I think they stayed with their approach and Randal [Grichuk] getting a big hit to start [the fourth] was important, [Matt Holliday] following up and Jhonny kind of breaking the ice; ball falls in front of the left fielder. And they just kept coming. That's the kind of offense we love to see."

Said Cubs manager Rick Renteria: "We didn't help [Wood] in the fourth inning when the ball started going everywhere. He deserved a little better fate than that."

While Wainwright can prep for the postseason -- St. Louis has secured a playoff berth -- Wood will have a long winter to try to figure out what did go wrong.

"It wasn't a good year for me overall," Wood said. "With that being said, it showed me a lot of the stuff I need to take into the offseason to work on. You learn a lot more about yourself as a pitcher when things aren't going good as opposed to when things are. That's what we'll take into the offseason and work at it."

Before the game, Renteria said Wood's fastball command had been a problem this season. Wood, who matched a career high with his 13th loss, agreed.

"For the most part of the year, it was [a problem]," said the lefty, who lost eight of his last nine decisions. "It's not like we were missing bad, just off."

Wainwright now has won 20 games for the second time in his career, and first since 2010, when he did so at Wrigley Field on Sept. 24. The right-hander is on a roll, and has given up two earned runs over 33 innings in his last four starts while striking out 26.

"He controlled everything he threw -- everything, curve, sinker, fastball," Chicago's Luis Valbuena said. "When a pitcher can throw what he wants like that, it's tough."

"The ball was moving to both sides of the plate, and he had his hook moving early," Renteria said of Wainwright. "He went to it early, so early that he threw first pitch breaking ball to [Chris] Coghlan to start the game, so he must have felt he had a pretty good curveball."

Wainwright got some insurance in the fifth. Wood walked Matt Carpenter to open the inning, and the Cubs thought he was out at second trying to advance on Grichuk's fly ball to center. But Matheny challenged the call, and after a review, it was overturned. Holliday made it pay with an RBI single to open a 5-0 lead. Adams added a two-run single.

With the loss, the Cubs dropped to 39-40 at Wrigley Field with two home games remaining. Chicago has not had a winning record at home since 2009.

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