Thursday’s 3-0 loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Cardinals.
An added bonus was a seventh inning pinch-hit triple by Rob Johnson, whose contract was purchased Tuesday from Triple-A Memphis. Johnson then scored on Matt Carpenter’s go-ahead double.
“We needed it,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Johnson’s clutch hit. “It’s a feel-good for a guy who’s been doing a lot of things right for us in our system. In a situation, he helped us produce and we wound up getting a run out of it.”
St. Louis jumped on Cubs starter Carlos Villanueva (2-5) for two runs in the top of the first inning. Carpenter singled and scored on Beltran’s triple, followed by Allen Craig’s RBI single.
The Cubs cut St. Louis’ lead to 2-1 in the third. Luis Valbuena walked, went to second when Starlin Castro was hit by a pitch, Anthony Rizzo hit into a fielder’s choice that pushed Valbuena to third and then Alfonso Soriano’s single scored Valbuena.
After Carpenter’s double scored Johnson in the seventh to make it 3-1, Castro closed the score to 3-2 with a leadoff homer in the eighth -- but the Cubs would get no closer, stranding seven runners in the game.
Even with Villanueva’s shaky first inning, Cubs manager Dale Sveum still liked what he saw from his starter.
“Six innings, 90 pitches, obviously settled down after the first inning,” Sveum said. “Everything got much sharper and he did a great job.”
The Cubs are 12-8 in their last 20 games, and are 3-5 against St. Louis this season. They faced the best team in baseball for the second straight week. Last weekend, they took two of three from Pittsburgh, which had the best record in the majors at the time.
Cardinals LF Matt Holliday was held out Friday with right hamstring tightness and is day-to-day. ... In addition to signing first round draft pick Kris Bryant, the Cubs also inked 12th round RHP Trevor Clifton and 19th round C Will Remillard. ... Saturday’s pitchers will be the Cardinals’ Lance Lynn (11-3, 3.67 ERA) and Matt Garza (5-1, 3.22). Garza has been the subject of trade rumors in recent days.