The St. Louis Cardinals may have been hoping a series with the Chicago Cubs would help provide some momentum before hosting the NL Central leader.
Instead, they're hoping Joe Kelly can help them avoid being swept.
With a series against first-place Pittsburgh looming, Kelly will try to help the Cardinals salvage a win versus the Cubs by turning in another strong performance Sunday.
St. Louis (66-50) was atop the division July 25, holding a 2 1/2-game lead on the Pirates. But 13 losses in 17 games, including four in a row, has dropped the Cardinals four games back.
With Pittsburgh scheduled to visit Busch Stadium for a three-game set starting Tuesday, the Cardinals are hoping to begin reversing their sluggish stretch, which includes batting .204 and averaging 1.9 runs in those defeats.
St. Louis has already lost its first home series with the Cubs (52-64) since being swept in a three-game set Sept. 13-15, 2010. The struggles continued Saturday, when the Cardinals squandered a two-run, eighth-inning lead in a 6-5 loss.
"Sometimes we just don't get it done," manager Mike Matheny said. "We had opportunities. We've just got to do things a little different."
Turning to Kelly (3-3, 2.98 ERA) may fall into that category since he's spent most of his first two seasons in the majors as a reliever. However, he's 3-0 with a 1.86 ERA in five starts since being moved into the rotation July 6.
The right-hander has compiled a 0.78 ERA over his past four outings, and was impressive again in Tuesday's 5-1 win over the Dodgers. He yielded one run in 5 1-3 innings, outpitching Clayton Kershaw while helping the Cardinals snap Los Angeles' franchise-record 15-game road winning streak.
"We needed him to come up big for us and that's exactly what he did," Matheny said. "He used both sides of the plate and his change-up was sharp. He couldn't have done much more than what he did."
Kelly was sharp in Chicago on July 12, allowing one run and three hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 3-2 win.
Matt Holliday continues to swing a hot bat for the Cardinals. He had two homers and four RBIs on Saturday and is hitting .423 with 12 runs in 14 games.
He's a staggering 20 for 36 (.556) with six homers, 11 RBIs and 13 runs over his last 10 home meetings with Chicago.
The Cubs, winners of three of four, are slated to turn to Edwin Jackson (7-12, 4.96), who is trying to rebound from one of his worst performances of the season.
The right-hander was tagged for seven runs and 10 hits in five innings of a 9-8 loss at Philadelphia on Tuesday. He had been 3-1 with a 1.83 ERA over his previous five outings.
"It was just a matter of not getting in a good rhythm and leaving too many pitches up," Jackson said. "My command wasn't very good. ... If you're up in the zone, any games will be tough."
One of Jackson's impressive performances last month came against the Cardinals, as he yielded three hits in seven innings of a 3-0 home win July 11. However, he's 0-3 with an 8.00 ERA in four starts in St. Louis.
Jackson has held Holliday to two hits in 11 at-bats over the past two years.
Cubs rookie Junior Lake had two hits and two runs Saturday, giving him a .333 average in 23 games since being recalled from Triple-A Iowa.
|August 08, 2013||Matt Guerrier||60-Day DL||Right elbow soreness|
|August 08, 2013||Thomas Neal||60-Day DL||Dislocated right shoulder|
|August 07, 2013||Thomas Neal||Day-to-Day||Dislocated right shoulder|
|August 07, 2013||Dioner Navarro||Day-to-Day||Right ankle contusion|
|August 03, 2013||Luis Valbuena||15-Day DL||Right oblique strain|
|July 15, 2013||Brian Bogusevic||15-Day DL||Left hamstring strain|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|August 07, 2013||Shelby Miller||Day-to-Day||Right elbow contusion|
|July 31, 2013||Shane Robinson||15-Day DL||Strained right shoulder|
|July 31, 2013||Yadier Molina||15-Day DL||Sprained right knee|
|July 30, 2013||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Strained right knee|
|July 12, 2013||Matt Holliday||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|July 12, 2013||Matt Holliday||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- For the first time in a while, the St. Louis Cardinals had good reason to use their closer. After such a long wait between pressure situations, Edward Mujica did not let anybody down.
Mujica converted his first save chance in 18 games, working the last two innings in an 8-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs that ended a four-game losing streak and avoided a sweep on Sunday.
"All the time it's about consistency," Mujica said. "Sometimes days off are pretty good for pitchers. For my arm. Everybody knows we're going to be out of this rough time."
Pete Kozma singled home the tiebreaking run in the sixth. Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig each had three hits and drove in a run. Jon Jay and David Freese both drove in two runs, though they only had one hit between them.
"That was a great at-bat by Pete, and couldn't have come at a better time," manager Mike Matheny said. "I thought the guys did a real good job of situational hitting, getting the runs in when they had money on the table."
Mujica earned his 31st save in 33 chances and first since July 25 against the Phillies, overcoming Starlin Castro 's leadoff double in the eighth with just a one-run cushion. Then he retired the final five in a row in an outing that matched his longest of the year.
The right-hander had been anticipating that after setup man Trevor Rosenthal threw 33 pitches and gave up the tying and go-ahead runs in two-thirds of an inning in a 6-5 loss.
"We had that in mind, didn't necessarily commit to that," Matheny said. "We knew that would be an option to go for `Chief' for two."
Randy Choate (2-1) faced one batter, getting leadoff man David DeJesus to pop out with two men on to end the sixth after the Cubs had tied it at 4 on RBI singles by Castro and Darwin Barney off Seth Maness .
Barney, like Kozma an eighth-place hitter, had two RBI singles. He's batting .215 overall but has a .317 average against St. Louis with two homers and 10 RBIs.
"He battles up there and it's hard to strike him out and he's going to give you an at-bat all the time," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "He's a little battler."
Tony Cruz doubled with two outs in the sixth off Blake Parker (1-2) and scored easily on Kozma's single. Parker was the winner Saturday with an inning of relief.
Jay added a sacrifice fly in the seventh off Hector Rondon and the Cardinals got RBIs from Carpenter and Craig in the eighth off Michael Bowden .
The Cardinals combined two singles, a walk, a steal and a sacrifice fly off Edwin Jackson in a three-run first. Matt Holliday had one of the RBIs plus a steal off Jackson's slow move to the plate, before Jackson finally retaliated by picking off Jay.
Holliday handed the Cubs an unearned run in the third when he camped under Junior Lake 's two-out high fly to medium left but then whiffed on the catch and DeJesus scored from first.
The Cubs settled for their first series win in St. Louis since a three-game sweep Sept. 13-15, 2010. They'd been 0-6-1 the previous seven series, and were trying for a three-game sweep.
"You can take two out of three here it's definitely a good thing," Barney said. "It's tough to win a series here. They play so well at home and Allen Craig is unbelievable with runners in scoring position."
NOTES: Cardinals OF Carlos Beltran fouled a ball off his right foot in the fifth, got medical attention on the field and then struck out before leaving with a bruise. X-rays were negative and the Cardinals are hopeful he can return Tuesday against NL Central-leading Pittsburgh. "It's sore, no doubt it's sore," Beltran said. "Hopefully Tuesday I can be back." ... Holliday grounded into his major league-leading 26th double play in the fifth. ... The Cubs' Darnell McDonald walked pinch-hitting in the seventh in his first at-bat of the year. He's the 50th player used by the Cubs, most in the majors. ... St. Louis' last two wins have come in starts by Joe Kelly , who allowed three earned runs in 5 1-3 innings and Jackson gave up four runs in five innings. ... Castro has five hits the last two games and is batting .536 (15-for-28) the last seven games against St. Louis.