The St. Louis Cardinals are slumping, and the lowly Chicago Cubs are contributing to their struggles.
The Cardinals try to bounce back from an anemic offensive showing Saturday against Travis Wood .
St. Louis (69-52) lost Friday's opener 7-0 after dropping two of three at home to the Cubs last weekend.
"We've played some of our best baseball against them," Chicago manager Dale Sveum said. "Even in some of the ballgames we've lost, we've played good ball and come up on the short end. We've played these guys really well."
The Cubs are 7-7 against the Cardinals but 12-28 against the rest of the NL Central.
Chicago (53-68), however, isn't the only team giving St. Louis problems. The Cardinals have lost six of nine and own the NL's second-worst record since July 26 at 7-15.
Highly touted prospect Kolten Wong made his major league debut for the Cardinals, going 0 for 3 with a strikeout. Manager Mike Matheny had the 22-year-old playing second base and moved regular second baseman Matt Carpenter to third. Struggling David Freese was relegated to the bench but is expected to be back in the lineup against Wood (7-9, 3.00 ERA).
Yadier Molina also will likely return after a day off following an 0-for-5 return from the disabled list. The NL MVP candidate is batting .429 with nine RBIs against the Cubs this season and is 5 for 9 in 2013 matchups with Wood.
Beltran is also excelling in those matchups, batting .392 with six doubles against Chicago and going 3 for 10 versus the left-hander.
Wood yielded two runs and four hits in a season-high eight innings against Cincinnati on Monday but was saddled with a 2-0 loss. It was his 20th quality start - tying him for second in the majors - and the third time in four outings he allowed two runs or fewer.
Although Wood is enjoying a solid season, it hasn't led to many wins, with the Cubs losing 10 of his last 13 starts.
Friday's victory snapped a four-game losing streak for Chicago and seven-game skid at Wrigley Field. Nate Schierholtz drove in three runs while Junior Lake and Anthony Rizzo each scored twice for the Cubs, who had been shut out in two of their previous three games.
Rizzo is partly to blame for Chicago's offensive woes, batting .140 in his last 13 contests. He is 3 for 23 in his last six games against St. Louis and 1 for 9 lifetime versus Joe Kelly (3-3, 3.14).
Kelly was a little shaky against Chicago on Sunday, giving up four runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings and not earning a decision in an 8-4 victory. He walked two, and is averaging 4.1 walks per nine innings over his last seven outings.
"I would like to go a little deeper, I can't do that when I start walking guys like that," the right-hander told the Cardinals' official website.
Kelly was 3-0 with a 0.78 ERA over his previous four starts. That stretch began at Wrigley on July 12, when he allowed a run and three hits over 5 1-3 innings of a 3-2 victory.
Wood is 1-1 with a 3.26 ERA in three starts against the Cardinals this season.
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|August 15, 2013||Tony Cruz||15-Day DL||Stress fracture, left forearm|
|August 11, 2013||Carlos Beltran||Day-to-Day||Right foot contusion|
|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 31, 2013||Yadier Molina||15-Day DL||Sprained right knee|
|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|
CHICAGO (AP) -- The Cardinals' Yadier Molina is regaining his comfort zone after returning from the disabled list - and showed it by inflicting some pain on the Cubs.
Molina hit a two-run homer, Joe Kelly threw six scoreless innings and St. Louis beat Chicago 4-0 Saturday.
Molina also had a double in his second game since coming off the disabled list Thursday from a sprained right knee.
"Today, I feel comfortable," Molina said. "Everything went well."
Molina homered off Travis Wood for a 4-0 lead in the sixth after Matt Holliday was hit by a pitch. Molina's ninth homer was his first hit in eight at-bats since he came off the disabled list.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny also liked how Molina made a strong throw after handling a tough bunt and how he guided Kelly.
"We're happy he's here," Matheny said.
Kelly (4-3) hasn't lost since joining the Cardinals rotation as the fifth starter on July 6. He allowed four hits, struck out six and walked three.
"He's stepped up and really taken advantage of it," Matheny said "You can tell he can't wait to get the ball. When he goes out there with that kind of confidence it kind of transfers over to everybody else.
And he's getting better.
"We're still real impressed with how he's using his secondary pitches in tough counts. He's staying out of the middle of the plate. He's making good pitches when he has to. He's working ahead, all the things we hope our starters will do."
Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro was pulled shortly after making a mental mistake that let the Cardinals score in the fifth.
The Cardinals led 1-0 and had the bases loaded with one out when Castro caught a popup by Matt Carpenter in short left field. Castro put his head down and hesitated to throw home. Jon Jay scored from third base and the other runners advanced.
"I think good teams constantly find ways to put pressure on the defense, and Jon is such a heads-up player," Matheny said. "He took two hard steps and saw he had an opportunity."
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said something to Castro when he reached the dugout. Donnie Murphy switched from third base to shortstop to replace Castro in the sixth, and Cody Ransom came off the bench to play third.
Sveum said there is no explanation for Castro's mistake. He was unsure if Castro would play Sunday.
"I know the outs and everything," Castro said. "I just put my head down, like a mental mistake. I don't want to say any excuse for that.
"It's my mistake and that's why I pay for that. That's why I got taken out of the game. I feel really, really bad that happened."
Wood (7-10) retired the first nine St. Louis batters. He gave up four runs and four hits in 5 1-3 innings.
Carpenter hit a leadoff double in the fourth and scored on a double by Carlos Beltran for a 1-0 lead.
A trio of St. Louis relievers combined to allow one hit. Both teams finished with five hits.
The Cubs have lost 14 of their last 19 games. They have been shut out in five of their last seven at Wrigley Field.
"You've got to give credit to Kelly. That's pretty overpowering stuff," Sveum said.
NOTES: The Cardinals recalled LHP Tyler Lyons from Triple-A Memphis before the game. He is 2-4 with a 5.35 ERA in seven starts. LHP Sam Freeman was optioned to Memphis after pitching four scoreless innings Friday against the Cubs. ... Cubs RHP Edwin Jackson (7-12, 5.05 ERA) will face Cardinals RHP Adam Wainwright (13-7, 2.71) Sunday in the series finale.