ST. LOUIS (AP) — The day began on a positive note, with Chicago Cubs players paying tribute to Hall of Famer Ron Santo by jumping over the third-base foul line and clicking their heels.
Nothing clicked the rest of the game, or the whole weekend for that matter, as the St. Louis Cardinals wrapped up a dominating three-game sweep with a 7-0 victory Sunday.
“That was kind of a nice touch,” manager Dale Sveum said of the Santo tribute. “And then downhill after that. They came out banging again and right away we were down.”
The Cubs’ 14-5 record entering the series was the best in the majors over that span. Aside from pitching woes with Ryan Dempster’s 33-inning scoreless streak ending and Matt Garza lasting just three innings, the offense ended the game with 25 consecutive scoreless innings and was 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position in the series, including seven chances Sunday.
“Well, we talked about that coming in out of the break, that it was something we had to do better,” Sveum said. “That’s always going to hurt us because we’re not going to hit balls out of the ballpark on a consistent basis.”
The Cubs were swept for the seventh time.
Despite the fact they fell flat in every category this weekend, players dressed in super hero costumes for the upcoming trip to Pittsburgh — including Garza and Alfonso Soriano as Batman, Starlin Castro as Robin, Dempster as Captain America and Joe Mather as Thor.
“I’m not happy about it, but I guess I have to do it,” said Soriano, who was 1 for 11 with five strikeouts in the series.
The Cubs are 2-6 in St. Louis this year and have lost 13 of their last 17 the last two seasons. They’re 2-1 at home against the Cardinals this year, and get them next weekend in a three-game series.
“I don’t pinpoint it, it’s just a number,” Sveum said. “That’s a good ballclub across the way. They won the World Series, so it’s always going to be tough to face that lineup, especially when you have to throw left-handers.”
Lance Lynn won his 12th game with six spotless innings, and Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran homered on consecutive pitches in the fifth for the finishing touches.
Jon Jay and Tony Cruz hit consecutive two-run doubles off Travis Wood (4-5) in the first for St. Louis, which outscored the Cubs 23-1 and outhit them 38-16 for their sweep over Chicago since June 3-5, 2011 in St. Louis. It’s just their second series sweep overall at home, where they’re 26-20.
Lynn (12-4) has allowed just one run in 19 innings his last three starts.
Fernando Salas and Marc Rzepczynski finished a combined five-hitter as the Cardinals earned consecutive shutouts for the first time since Oct. 1-2, 2010, against the Rockies.
Attendance of 42,411 just missed a third straight sellout, with some fans perhaps scared off by forecasts of triple-digit temperatures. It was 94 degrees at game time.
Holliday also doubled in the first, giving St. Louis a two-game total of 12 one day after tying the decades-old major league record with seven. The Cardinals also tied the franchise record with a 12-run seventh against four Cubs relievers in that game.
Jay added three singles for his first career four-hit game, with everything to the opposite field including a dribbler down the third-base line that he legged out in the seventh, plus a nice running catch at the warning track in center field to deny Mather’s pinch-hit bid for extra bases in the seventh.
Jay entered the series finale in a 2-for-20 slump and did not start the series opener Friday.
Lynn pushed aside workload concerns in his first season in the rotation. In his previous three starts, he gave up 17 runs in 15 1/3 innings while steadfastly insisting that the problems were solely pitch location at key spots.
Lynn’s lone problem, inattentiveness to baserunners, didn’t hurt him. David DeJesus, who’s just 3 for 8 on steals, and Bryan LaHair, 2 for 3, stole second standing up to start the first two innings, but stayed there.
Wood almost got out of the first without damage when Allen Craig stumbled rounding third on Holliday’s one-out double and had to retreat. Jay bailed out Craig with an opposite-field flare to left that dropped just inside the line.
“I’m not sure what happened,” Wood said. “Their series, I guess. They put the ball in play, got the hits when they needed them, scored the runs, and today they did more of the same.”
NOTES: Jeff Samardzija (6-8, 4.57) starts for the Cubs in the opener of a three-game series at Pittsburgh on Monday. Joe Kelly is 0-1 but with a stingy 2.11 ERA in four career home starts heading into the Cardinals’ opener of a four-game series against the Dodgers and Chad Billingsley (4-9, 4.30). … Jay is 7 for 13 with 21 RBIs for his career with the bases loaded. … The Cubs demoted RHP Rafael Dolis, 2-4 with a 6.44 ERA, to Triple-A Iowa before the game and recalled LHP Jeff Beliveau. He allowed three hits in 1 2/3 scoreless innings in his major league debut. … Holliday is batting .440 (48 for 109) his last 29 games with six homers, 14 doubles and 28 RBIs.
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