ST. LOUIS — The Chicago Cubs were rude guests Monday night as the St. Louis Cardinals opened an 10-game homestand.
The Cubs took a 7-0 lead after 1 1/2 innings and glided to a 17-5 victory before a capacity crowd of 44,434 at Busch Stadium.
The 17 runs, along with 20 hits, were season-highs for Chicago. It was the most runs the Cubs have scored against the Cardinals since they won 17-4 on Sept. 21, 1974, at Busch Stadium II.
Eleven of the runs Monday came against the Cardinals' first two pitchers, Tyler Lyons and reliever Eric Fornataro. The last six came in the ninth against Randy Choate, who allowed as many hits in the inning as he had in 14 previous appearances and saw his ERA soar from 2.38 to 6.75.
Choate couldn't survive the onslaught, being relieved by utility infielder Daniel Descalso with two outs in the ninth. Descalso retired Mike Olt on a deep fly to left to end the inning.
With Lyons not immediately available and few other players in the clubhouse, Descalso was taken aback when he finished dressing and saw at least 12 reporters standing around his locker.
"Really?" Descalso said.
Descalso said he hadn't pitched in a game since high school. Manager Mike Matheny had forewarned him of the possibility as Choate struggled with every hitter he faced in the ninth.
"I just went out there and did what they asked me to do," Descalso said. "I don't really want to talk about this. ... We got our (butt) kicked tonight. It's never a good feeling."
Olt and Junior Lake homered for the Cubs (13-24). Lake had three hits and a career-high six RBIs, while Emilio Bonifacio had four hits and scored five runs. Every Chicago starter had at least one hit.
Lyons (0-3, 6.12 ERA) absorbed most of the damage. The left-hander allowed nine runs (earned) on nine hits in four innings, with one walk and two strikeouts.
"Tyler had a rough start, no question about it," Matheny said. "It looked like he was just getting the ball in the middle of the plate. Regardless of what pitch it was, it seemed like he was finding more of the plate that what he was looking for, and they didn't miss them."
Matheny did all he could to avoid using Descalso.
"It's embarrassing to have to put him into that spot," Matheny said. "He's a team guy; he understands. But we shouldn't have ever been in that spot to begin with. It's tough for all of us to watch."
The Cardinals used five pitchers prior to Descalso, and Matheny acknowledged it's likely a roster move will be made before the second game of the series at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday.
The Cubs hit for the cycle in the first, grabbing a 4-0 lead.
Bonifacio doubled past third to lead off and went to third on Lake's grounder to second. Yadier Molina's passed ball scored Bonifacio to make it 1-0.
Anthony Rizzo then singled to left and scored on a triple inside first by Starlin Castro. Olt hit Lyons' next pitch into the seats in right for his eighth home run.
After Travis Wood retired the Cardinals (19-20) in order in the first, the Cubs scored three more in the second.
Wood beat out an infield single to third and went to second on Bonifacio's hit. Lake then lined a 1-0 pitch into the seats in left, extending Chicago's lead to 7-0.
Wood (3-4) pitched six innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on five hits. He walked three and struck out four.
The Cardinals inched within 7-2 in the second.
Molina singled with one out and Peter Bourjos walked with two outs. Mark Ellis cracked a single to left, and both Molina and Bourjos scored when the ball got past Lake for an error.
Ellis was credited with one RBI, while the other run was unearned because of the miscue.
The Cubs got the two runs back in the fourth on Lake's RBI double and an overturned call at the plate.
Bonifacio was initially called out at home by Sean Barber on Rizzo's roller to shortstop Jhonny Peralta. But replays indicated Molina missed the tag on Bonifacio, whose run counted after a 1-minute, 30-second review.
The Cardinals got within 9-5 in the fifth with three runs. Wood hit Greg Garcia and Peralta with pitches, setting up Matt Holliday's RBI double. Allen Craig followed with an RBI grounder to third and Molina had a run-scoring single to center.
But the Cardinals could get no closer.
"We saw some fight," Matheny said. "We got within four runs there, and then we weren't able to shut it off."