Mulder, who probably didn't need the added responsibility of having to pitch in a pennant race, probably will make at least one more start -- next weekend at home against Houston.
The Cardinals are all but eliminated now as they stand seven games behind division-leading Chicago with 14 to play. They needed to win three of four in the four-game series this weekend, but instead, they lost three of four.
After spotting the Cubs four runs in the third inning, the Cardinals had numerous chances as they played catch-up. Albert Pujols narrowly missed three-run homers on two occasions -- in the sixth and seventh -- when both balls went foul to left.
But the Cardinals, who have dropped 10 of their last 11 games, suffered their seventh loss by two runs or one run in that span.
"That (means) we've been competitive," said manager Tony La Russa, who particularly lauded his team's effort on Sunday. "It also (means) we haven't been good enough."
CUBS 4, CARDINALS 2: Mark Mulder, who missed a year after shoulder surgery, dropped to 0-3 in his third start and failed to go past the fourth inning for the third straight time. The Chicago Cubs swung and missed just one pitch in Mulder's three innings, raining down five extra-base hits, including Matt Murton's three-run homer in the third. The Cardinals are 1-10 over their last 11 games.
NOTES AND QUOTES
--Ankiel, with two singles, had his first multi-hit game since Sept. 6, when he hit two homers and drove in seven runs.
--CF Jim Edmonds was kicked out of the game after the seventh inning. He had complained about a strike-two call before popping up with the bases loaded to end the inning.
--RHP Russ Springer, unused Sunday, has had 15 consecutive scoreless outings, covering 15 1/3 innings.
--The Cardinals lost the season series to the Cubs for the third year in a row. This year, they won just five of the 16 games.
BY THE NUMBERS: 12 -- The number of games under .500 (33-45) the Cardinals are against non-division opponents with three games remaining against Philadelphia and one against New York.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've won with this cast of characters. We can win again." -- Manager Tony La Russa, after the Cardinals' losing streak had reached seven, longest of the season.