The Cardinals made sure the Cubs know they're not going to hand over the National League Central without a fight. Matt Carpenter hit a two-run double and Aledmys Diaz smacked a two-run homer to back Michael Wacha in St. Louis' 7-2 victory over Chicago on Wednesday and complete a sweep in front of 41,058.
The Cubs now have lost three in a row, matching their longest losing streak of the year, and the Cardinals pulled within 9 1/2 games in the standings. This is the first time St. Louis has swept a three-game series at Wrigley Field since May 1988.
"Give them credit -- they really pitched well and played well, and they beat us fair and square," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.
The Cubs didn't dwell on the sweep for long. As they emerged from their clubhouse to begin a road trip in Miami, they sported shorts and brightly colored attire appropriate for their destination.
"It's the Anthony Rizzo 'Who wears short shorts? Anthony wears short shorts' road trip," Maddon said. "He's the motivation."
The win snapped a seven-game losing streak for Wacha, who struck out five and gave up three hits over 6 2/3 innings, including rookie Willson Contreras' two-run home run. St. Louis took a 5-4 lead in the season series and won its eighth in a row on the road, its longest streak since an eight-game streak in September 1982.
"Any time you beat a good team, it's just a reinforcement, but you don't dwell there very long," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Chicago's Jake Arrieta was vying for his 12th win, but he took the loss, his second in his past four starts. He gave up two runs -- only one earned, so his ERA stays at 1.74 -- and he walked four in a game for the fifth time this season, matching his season high. The problem, Maddon said, was fastball command.
"He has to get back to the fastball going where he wants to, and once he does, he'll be exactly the same as last year," Maddon said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Big inning: The Cardinals sent 10 batters to the plate and scored five runs in the sixth inning. Brandon Moss doubled to lead off the inning, advanced on Justin Grimm's wild pitch and scored on a fielder's choice to third, beating catcher Miguel Montero's tag. Carpenter hit a two-run double to chase Grimm and Diaz smacked a two-run home run offCarl Edwards Jr., his ninth of the season.
Kid stuff: Contreras took over for Montero in the sixth when the veteran injured his right knee in a play at the plate. In his first at-bat of the game with two outs in the seventh and one on, the rookie launched a 2-2 pitch into the left-center-field bleachers for his second home run. Contreras now has five RBIs in nine at-bats.
Taking advantage: The Cardinals loaded the bases with a walk, a single and another walk against Arrieta in the fifth. On a Stephen Piscotty grounder, the Cubs were unable to complete a double play when second baseman Ben Zobrist made a low throw to first for an error, allowing two runs to score.
"I thought the big play of the game was not turning the double play," Maddon said. "Jake struggled through the five and could've gotten out of it with nothing, but that play gave them some momentum, and [Wacha] pitched well."
Glovework: The Cardinals forced Arrieta's pitch count up early in the game, including a 26-pitch second. The Cubs' defense did help in the St. Louis fourth. With one out, Jhonny Peralta doubled for the second time in the game, and Moss walked. Arrieta then struck outYadier Molina, and center fielder Matt Szczur robbed Kolten Wong of a potential extra-base hit with a running catch in center to end the inning.
QUOTABLE "We are a good team. We don't have to go out and make a statement and say, 'Hey, look at us.' We just have to play good baseball and play clean baseball. I don't think there's anybody in here who doesn't think we can't compete with them or compete with the Pirates." -- Moss
"It's always wonderful if you go to someone else's ballpark and win like that. We're not taking anything for granted on our side. We have to play. It ended up being a .500 homestand. Our sights are set higher than that. Pittsburgh left feeling the same way we're feeling now. We have to move on. We'll be ready to play." -- Maddon
INJURY UPDATE Montero twisted awkwardly trying to tag Moss at home plate in the sixth, and he came up grimacing. He had to leave the game, and the team announced he was having his right knee examined. More >
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo was lifted after six innings because of some stiffness in his lower back. His status was day to day.
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals: After an off-day on Thursday, Carlos Martinez will take the mound in the series opener against the Mariners on Friday. He is 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in three June starts. First pitch is scheduled for 9:10 p.m. CT.
Cubs:Jon Lester will open the Cubs' four-game series against the Marlins on Thursday. Lester is riding a five-game winning streak but has not had much luck against the Marlins. He's 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA in three career starts against Miami. First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. CT.