ST. LOUIS — The big late-inning hit that has been there for most of the season eluded the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday.
The Cardinals twice rallied from five-run deficits, only to fall short to Jake Arrieta and the Chicago Cubs 9-8. Arrieta remained unbeaten on the season despite allowing as many as four runs for the first time in nearly a year.
"I felt all the way through, I thought it was going to be a game we were going to steal," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It would have been a big one to take."
The Cardinals outscored the Cubs 4-0 from the bottom of the sixth on. St. Louis has outscored opponents 104-53 from the seventh inning on, but couldn’t convert on a two-on, no out situation in the ninth.
"We always thought we were in it and always thought we had a chance to win it," outfielder Randal Grichuk said. "Unfortunately we didn’t come up with the big hit."
Stephen Piscotty, hitting .360 in May, had an RBI single in the first to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.
Grichuk’s solo homer in the second inning cut the Cubs’ lead to 6-2.
Grichuk was disappointed in loss but says team being able to put up runs like that vs. Arrieta was "huge for us."https://t.co/dGVcTzfptt
The Cardinals made it 6-4 in the fourth on RBI hits by Matt Adams and Grichuk and had a chance for more, but Kolten Wong popped up a 3-0 pitch to left.
"I got the pitch I was looking for, just missed by a centimeter or so," Wong said.
St. Louis loaded the bases again in the fifth, but Cubs third baseman Tommy La Stella bailed out Arrieta with a diving stop on Grichuk’s grounder and forced Yadier Molina at second.
"I thought that was a terrific play, you can’t get past that," Matheny said. "They made a plus defensive play in a big situation and it got them out of a jam."
Matt Holliday snapped a 3-for-39 slump with a three-run homer in the sixth to make it 9-7. Adams hit his second homer of the series in the seventh to cut it to a one-run deficit.
Carlos Martinez (4-5) lost his career-high fifth straight start. He retired eight of his final 10 batters after giving up six runs in the second inning. It was the second consecutive day that a Cardinals starter gave up six runs in an inning to the Cubs.
"We just can’t keep putting up six-run innings and expect to stay in the game," Matheny said.
Arrieta (9-0) joined the White Sox’s Chris Sale as the only nine-game winners in the majors.
Arrieta allowed four runs in a regular-season game for the first time since June 16, 2015.
"I picked a good day to be (bad)," Arrieta said.
"I was aggressive but they had a good game plan coming in and it was a good thing our offense was able to be extremely productive today."
Arrieta became the first Cub to win his first nine decisions since Kenny Holtzman in 1967, and it is the best start to a season for the franchise since Jim McCormick went 16-0 in 1886.
The Cubs have won Arrieta’s past 23 starts, a franchise record.
Kris Bryant hit a three-run homer and Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist each drove in two runs for the Cubs.
Hector Rondon earned his eighth save.
The Cardinals fell to 2-4 this season against the Cubs and trail Chicago by eight games in the National League Central.
BUNDLE OF JOY
Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter, hitless in 16 at-bats against Arrieta, was out of the lineup Wednesday because he was with his wife, who went into labor before the game with their first child. Wong hit in Carpenter’s leadoff spot.
Cardinals: Acquired OF Jose Martinez from the Kansas City Royals for cash considerations and assigned him to Triple-A Memphis. RHP Mitch Harris (elbow) was moved to the 60-day disabled list to make room for Martinez on the 40-man roster.
Cardinals: RHP Mike Leake (3-3, 4.07 ERA) will make his 10th start of the season, starting a seven-game road trip at the Washington Nationals. Leake is 3-0 with a 0.86 ERA in his past three starts.