ST. LOUIS (AP) — Alfonso Soriano dealt the St. Louis’ wild-card hopes another serious blow with his first home run of the month, a tiebreaking three-run shot in the eighth inning that sent the Chicago Cubs over the Cardinals 5-1 Friday night.
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.
Cardinals starter Chris 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 hit his 24th homer, connecting off Kyle McClellan (12-7). Starlin Castro added an RBI single off Mitchell Boggs in the ninth.
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.
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 three double plays, the last in the eighth after getting two hits off Jeff Samardzija (8-4), and lead the major leagues with 165. They’re one shy of their own NL record set in 1958.
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.
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.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)