Cubs 5, Cardinals 1
The St. Louis bullpen took another pounding, leaving the Cardinals' wild-card hopes in serious jeopardy. Manager Tony La Russa was pretty peeved about his hitters, too.
Alfonso Soriano's first home run of the month was a tiebreaking three-run shot in the eighth inning that sent the Chicago Cubs to a 5-1 victory on Friday night.
''We're not worried about if it's St. Louis or Atlanta who makes the playoffs,'' Soriano said. ''We've just got to keep playing hard. I hope the Cardinals make the playoffs but they have to work hard because nothing is given in this game.''
The loss dropped the Cardinals three games behind Atlanta, which beat Washington 7-4, for the wild card. The defeat also clinched the NL Central for Milwaukee.
''We started this run weeks ago, everybody counted us out a long time ago and we battled back to give ourselves a chance,'' Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter said. ''I think it was to try to play hard and play well the rest of the year, no matter what happens. We're going to be here ready to go. Everybody's excited.''
The Cardinals grounded into three double plays for a season total of 165, by far the most in the major leagues and one shy of the team's National League record set in 1958. They were 3 for 16 with men on base and 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
''It's an irritating game,'' La Russa said. ''A lot of things were irritating me, when you've got this much at stake.''
Carpenter was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the seventh after throwing 93 pitches. The St. Louis bullpen got punished for the second straight game when Soriano connected off Kyle McClellan (12-7). Starlin Castro added an RBI single off Mitchell Boggs in the ninth.
Carpenter had no argument with La Russa's decision to lift him. During his tenure in St. Louis, the manager rarely has lifted his aces when they still had the game in their hands and with a reasonable pitch count.
''We need to win and we need to get some runs,'' Carpenter said. ''Me leading off the inning isn't a great chance to score some runs.''
The Cardinals missed a chance to narrow their wild-card deficit to one game on Thursday when they let the New York Mets score six runs in the ninth off three relievers. Now, after the fourth loss in 16 games, they have just five games left to catch Atlanta.
''What are they doing over there right now?'' Cubs pitcher Matt Garza yelled in the clubhouse. ''Going 'aww man, aww man.'''
Shortstop Rafael Furcal, whose fielding error opened the door for the Mets' big inning, did not play. He has five errors in his last six games.
St. Louis grounded into its last double play in the eighth after getting two hits off Jeff Samardzija (8-4) with Matt Holliday set to pinch hit.
''Anything but a double play, that would have been fun to see,'' La Russa said. ''Just irritating.''
Carpenter allowed a run on five hits in seven innings, coming on the heels of eight shutout innings in his last start against the Phillies. His squeeze bunt in the second drove in the Cardinals' lone run.
The Cardinals surpassed 3 million in attendance for the eighth straight season with a crowd of 40,355.
Castro opened the game with a single for his 200th hit, at age 21 becoming the youngest player in Cubs history to do it. Carlos Pena had an RBI double in the sixth and three walks to give him 97 on the year, the most by a Cubs first baseman in statistics kept since 1900.
Darwin Barney tripled to lead off the eighth and Pena was intentionally walked with one out before Soriano, who's 4 for 8 with two homers and five RBIs against McClellan, hit his first homer since Aug. 30 into the visitors' bullpen in left.
''I was just looking for my pitch, a little in and a little up,'' Soriano said. ''I think when I see him I'm more comfortable at the plate. I made a good swing and I think he made a bad pitch.''
The Cardinals loaded the bases with one out in the sixth on two walks and a single. Ryan Dempster fell behind 2-0 in the count to each of the first four hitters but Ryan Theriot grounded into a double play swinging on the first pitch.
Dempster allowed a run on four hits in six innings, his fifth quality start in five tries this month with nothing to show for it. He's 0-3 in September despite a 3.34 ERA, and 0-5 in his last seven overall.
NOTES: Kyle Lohse (14-8, 3.47) opposes Rodrigo Lopez (6-6, 4.71) in the second game of the series Saturday. Lopez is 2-5 with a 6.70 ERA against the Cardinals and Lohse is one shy of his career high for wins. ... The Cardinals honored farm clubs Johnson City (Appalachian) and Quad Cities (Midwest) for championship seasons in a pregame ceremony. ... Cubs 3B D.J. LeMahieu made an outstanding leaping catch on Theriot's liner to end the fourth. Carpenter nimbly fielded Castro's squibber and made a nice throw to end the fifth. ... Carpenter has worked seven or more innings 20 times. ... McClellan has allowed 21 homers after giving up a total of 20 his three previous seasons, all as a setup man.