ST. LOUIS — Justin Masterson thinks he knows what is wrong. Now he just has to find a way to get back on track.
Masterson allowed three homers in the St. Louis Cardinals’ 5-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs in the opener of a day-night doubleheader on Saturday.
The right-hander, who was acquired in a July 30 trade, was charged with five runs and six hits in 4 1/3 innings. He has allowed four or more runs in five of his six starts for the Cardinals and pitched five innings or fewer in four of his starts with St. Louis.
"It’s inconsistency," Masterson said. "I wouldn’t finish some pitches, left them hanging up and in. They’re hitting those balls pretty hard.
"We were in the zone for the most part. I gave up the home runs because I was in the zone. There were some good pitches and some not-so-good pitches."
Starlin Castro, Logan Watkins and Chris Valaika each hit a solo homer for Chicago in the makeup of a May 14 rainout. The last-place Cubs hit four home runs Friday, giving them seven in two games against the Cardinals.
It might have been worse for St. Louis but Tyler Lyons struck out eight in 4 2/3 scoreless innings of relief.
"I’ll tell what was impressive was watching Tyler Lyons out there," Masterson said. "If we’d know that was going to happen we should have started him.
"It was a great finish to the game. For him to go out there and do that and save the bullpen by just doing his thing, that’s more impressive than anything bad I did. He was straight nasty."
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny agreed.
"Lyons was terrific coming in in the middle of the game," Matheny said. "I thought we obviously needed that and needed somebody to come in pick us up and he did a terrific job."
Holding the Cubs scoreless was his mission, Lyons said. Getting strikeouts was just a byproduct of how well he was pitching.
"When you get ahead in the count with two strikes, that gives you a little more flexibility," Lyons said. "You can make them try to chase pitches. That’s what happened."
St. Louis has lost four in a row for the second time this season. The Cardinals began the day one game ahead of Atlanta and 1 1/2 up on Pittsburgh for the second NL wild card.
Chris Coghlan had a two-run single for the Cubs, who have won nine of 13.
Cubs left-hander Felix Doubront (3-4) pitched seven innings of one-run ball in his return from the disabled list. He had been out with a strained right calf since Aug. 1, two days after Chicago acquired him from Boston.
The Cubs took a 2-0 lead in the second, when an out at the plate was overturned on instant replay. Doubront drew a walk to load the bases before Coghlan singled to right. Plate umpire Alan Porter initially called Valaika out at home on a throw from Randal Grichuk.
But a replay showed Valaika had his hand on the plate before he was tagged by catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Chicago challenged and the call was overturned.
"Another good homer day for the Cubbies," Chicago manager Rick Renteria said. "The at-bat Coghlan put together to drive in the first two runs was good. Doubront getting that walk was pretty big."
St. Louis got a run back in the second when Jhonny Peralta scored on a double play.
Watkins hit the first pitch of the fourth for his first major league home run. Two pitches later, Valaika sent a shot into the left-field bullpen, giving the Cubs a 4-1 lead.
Castro led off the fifth with his 14th homer, matching his career high.
Cubs: 1B Anthony Rizzo sat out again. Rizzo’s lower back tightened during a rain delay Tuesday in Cincinnati. He has not played since and is expected to sit out Sunday as well. … RHP Edwin Jackson (strained right strain) threw in the bullpen before the game. He has been on the disabled list since Aug. 21.
Cardinals: Reliever Jason Motte (lower back strain) threw a bullpen Friday and the Cardinals hope he can return in September. With the minor league season ending this week, there will be no time for Motte to work out the kinks during a rehab assignment. … RHP Michael Wacha (right shoulder strain) will pitch Sunday in Tulsa for Double-A Springfield. Wacha went on the DL after his June 17 start.
Cubs: LHP Tsuyoshi Wada (4-1, 2.56 ERA) was set to make his ninth big league start in the second game. In his previous start Sunday against Baltimore, Wada took a no-hitter into the seventh before Steve Pearce hit a leadoff homer. … LHP Travis Wood (8-11, 4.72 ERA) will start Sunday afternoon.
Cardinals: LHP Marco Gonzales (0-2, 7.07 ERA) was scheduled to pitch the nightcap. He was called up as the 26th man on the roster to make his fourth major league start and first since July 6. … RHP John Lackey gets the ball Sunday. Lackey is 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in five starts for the Cardinals since being traded by Boston. He is 13-8 with a 3.77 ERA overall.