John Lackey gave the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen a much needed break. He made his own breaks, too.
Lackey drove in a run for the third time in his big league career and struck out 10 in 7 2-3 innings, helping the Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs 5-1 Thursday for their ninth win in 10 games.
''I'd like to finish them all,'' Lackey said. ''There might be a little bit more importance on it because of the last few days, I guess.''
St. Louis relievers worked 35 innings the previous seven days. Three pitchers failed to make it through the fifth during that stretch.
''All the way around, just exactly what our staff needed,'' manager Mike Matheny said. ''Today was one of his best.''
Jason Heyward singled three times with an RBI, and Peter Bourjos hit a run-scoring triple for the NL Central leaders, who took three of four from the second-place Cubs and improved their record to a major league-best 21-7.
Lackey had been 6 for 67 at the plate in 13 major league seasons before a two-out, opposite-field RBI double to right in the fourth. He wasn't exactly bragging about getting the best of Jake Arrieta.
''That guy's got great stuff,'' Lackey said. ''I was late and got lucky and went down the line.''
Bourjos, who had been on first base, scored for a 4-0 lead on an error by Jorge Soler who, with his back to the plate, missed the ball as he tried to glove it between his legs near the foul line.
The double was the third extra-base hit for the 36-year-old Lackey, who has played most of his entire career in the American League.
Lackey (2-1) allowed one run and five hits, reaching double digits for the 18th time. After the Cubs put two on against in the ninth, Trevor Rosenthal relieved and got three straight outs - two on strikeouts - for his 10th save in 11 chances.
Arrieta (3-3) gave up five runs - four earned - and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings. Starlin Castro drove in a run for the Cubs, who have lost five of their last six games.
They won their lone game of the series by a run and lost by one, three and four runs. Manager Joe Maddon was in a pretty good mood.
''We've just celebrated Cinco de Mayo and that's an indicator of what's going on with your team,'' Maddon said. ''I'm pretty happy and I wasn't drinking. It had nothing to do with Coronas with limes.''
St. Louis built on a 2-0 lead in the second when Heyward hit an RBI single and scored on Bourjos' triple.
''I have zero concerns,'' Maddon said. ''The hitters will start figuring some of this stuff out as they get more ABs. I could not be happier with them as a group.''
Cubs: Jason Hammel (2-1, 3.73) starts Friday at Milwaukee. He is 5-0 with a 2.20 ERA in seven starts against the Brewers.
Cardinals: Michael Wacha (4-0, 1.93) starts Friday at Pittsburgh. He pitched 6 2-3 scoreless innings against the Pirates on Sunday in the Cardinals' 14-inning victory.
Cardinals: Lefty Marco Gonzales (shoulder) will make a rehab start Saturday for Triple-A Memphis.
Link to box score: St. Louis (21-7) 5, Chicago Cubs (14-13) 1