After being drubbed 7-1 by the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday night, the St. Louis Cardinals were eager to throw away the defeat and move on.
“This will be a good opportunity to get rid of this one quick, really,“ Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of a fast turnaround before facing the Chicago Cubs at 1:15 p.m. Monday. “We’ll have a short memory and figure out how to make it look a little better.”
Pittsburgh (81-54) hit three home runs against three different pitchers to pull within 5 1/2 games of the Cardinals (87-49) in the NL Central. The Cubs (78-57) are in third place, 8 1/2 games behind St. Louis. All three teams are in strong position to make the playoffs.
John Lackey took the loss, allowing single runs in the fourth, seventh and eighth. Aramis Ramirez’s homer in the eighth made it 3-0, and Sean Rodriguez followed with a two-run homer three batters later against Steve Cishek. Starling Marte hit a two-run homer against Tyler Lyons in the ninth.
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The Cardinals’ lone run came in the ninth when pinch-hitter Cody Stanley drove in Greg Garcia, who had doubled as a pinch-hitter.
Lackey (11-9) doesn’t look at the series against the Cubs as being any bigger than others.
“Whatever. Big series,” Lackey said. “We’ve got a month to go. I guess they’re all big series. Putting importance on one series over another is not how you get here. You just try to play the game, and whoever’s in front of you, try to beat them that night.”
Gerrit Cole (16-8) threw seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits, walking three and striking out seven. Cole grew up an Anaheim Angels fan and was in the stands when Lackey pitched Game 7 of the 2002 World Series against the San Francisco Giants. Lackey and the Angels won 4-1.
“I guess that’s pretty cool,” Lackey said. “I guess that means I’ve been around a while. I knew he went to UCLA, so he probably grew up and Angels fan. That’s cool. He’s a great pitcher right now. He’s got great stuff and really pitched well tonight.”
The loss ended a grueling day for Matheny, who flew to Leon, West Va., early Sunday for the funeral of his 94-year-old grandfather, Atmer Matheny, who died Thursday. Matheny returned to Busch Stadium immediately after the ceremony and was in the dugout for the first pitch.
“I’m just very fortunate that (Chairman) Bill DeWitt and (General Manager) John Mozeliak found a way for me to get home where I needed to be,” Matheny said. “That was one of my heroes in life, and to be able to be there to honor him was huge. ... I can’t thank them enough for such a classy move to help make that happen.”
Mike Matheny said his grandfather influenced him with “work-ethic stuff.”
“He was a farmer, just a hard-working man,” Matheny said. “I was just honored to be a part of the service today, and I know it meant a lot to my family. It meant a lot to me to be able to honor him the way he deserved.”
Matheny expects a tough series against the Cubs. The other games of the series at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday and 12:45 p.m. Wednesday.
“I’m excited to play (Monday),” Matheny said. “I’m not going to be up there taking any at-bats, but I’m excited to see our guys go at this team. I know, especially (with it being) a day game and Labor Day, I imagine we’re going to have a stadium that’s abuzz with life. These guys are going to be ready to play.”
The pitching matchups for the series are: Monday, Lance Lynn vs. Dan Haren; Tuesday, Michael Wacha vs. Jason Hammel; and Wednesday, Carlos Martinez vs. Jon Lester.
“I don’t think it’s any secret. This is an improved (Cubs) team,” Matheny said. “They’ve got a lot of things that they’re excited about. But we don’t focus too long on that. We focus on ourselves. We can’t control what they do. We control what we do and how we prepare. We know this is one of those teams where we’re going to have to be on top of our game.”