The Redbird Report 07/26

Adam Wainwright had allowed only three earned runs in his last 21 innings over three starts, all victories. And he seemed on that course Wednesday night, fanning six of the first 10 hitters to face him through three innings.

The Cardinals have used up all of their margin for error on a seven-game homestand that likely will determine their future as pretenders or contenders. Coming into the block of three games with the Chicago Cubs and four with the Milwaukee Brewers, both teams ahead of them in the National League Central Division standings, the Cardinals realistically needed to go 5-2 in that stretch to gain any appreciable ground.

They already have the two losses. After the Cubs got all of their runs with two outs in a 4-3 win Tuesday, the Cubs scored five of their seven with two outs Wednesday as they beat the Cardinals for the fourth consecutive time in Busch Stadium this year, taking a 7-1 decision.

This came despite a four-hit game by Juan Encarnacion, who raised his average to .293 and drove in the only run in fourth inning with one of his four singles.

The Cubs were only 1-for-10 in the first three innings, but they adjusted the next time around, jumping on mostly high Wainwright offerings and cuffing him for seven hits in 13 at-bats.

"We've been in this position, it seems like, most of the season," manager Tony La Russa said. "We've lost the first two games of a series. But if we play harder (Thursday) because we're 0-2, then you should really fault the effort of the first two games."

However, La Russa also said, "It's been true for weeks now that if we have a bad stretch, then we're really in trouble."

CUBS 7, CARDINALS 1: The story of Wednesday's game was a simple one. The Cardinals had no extra-base hits (eight singles) and the Cubs had five doubles and a triple. The Cardinals, once an automatic team at home, are 21-24 at Busch Stadium this season.

NOTES AND QUOTES

--OF Skip Schumaker, though he made an out in a pinch=hitting appearance Wednesday, has been an offensive force lately, going 18-for-37 over his last 15 games. He also is 4 for his last 8 as a pinch hitter.

"He doesn't get the opportunities unless he does well," manager Tony La Russa said. "He's done a lot, and a lot of it has been clutch."

--The Cardinals will have at least a couple of roster moves to make this weekend. RHP Anthony Reyes will be recalled from Class AAA Memphis to pitch one game of a day-night doubleheader against Milwaukee on Saturday. And INF/OF Scott Spiezio, who has had an infected left index finger, is eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday.

--1B Albert Pujols was robbed of an extra-base hit by CF Jacque Jones in the first inning and grounded sharply into a double play in the eighth. He is 0-for-9 in the series so far.

--2B Brendan Ryan had two hits and is 19-for-53 (.358) in 15 starts at the major league level.

--RHP Adam Wainwright, though he lost Wednesday, tied his single-game high of seven strikeouts.


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