ST. LOUIS (AP) — For the third straight game, a St. Louis Cardinals starter thrived with get-me-by stuff. There was more than enough offense again, too.
Lance Lynn won his 12th game with six mostly spotless innings, and Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran homered on consecutive pitches to put the finishing touches on a 7-0 victory Sunday that completed a three-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs.
The weekend was near perfect for the World Series champions, who were 1-5 and totaled 15 runs in their first trip after the All-Star break.
”We’re in a good rhythm now,” Lynn said. ”We just need to stay there.”
Jon Jay and Tony Cruz hit consecutive two-run doubles off Travis Wood (4-5) in the first for St. Louis, which outscored the Cubs 23-1 and outhit them 38-16 for their sweep over Chicago since June 3-5, 2011 in St. Louis. It’s just their second series sweep overall at home, where they’re 26-20.
The Cardinals have had strong pitching most of the year, and rookie manager Mike Matheny has been waiting for a spotty lineup to produce consistently. St. Louis leads the National League with a .276 average and 464 runs.
”You see guys having big numbers and our record really wasn’t indicative of that,” Matheny said. ”It’s just a matter of kind of putting it together and those hits falling in timely spots.
”That was probably one of the more frustrating things with the trip we just had. Hopefully we can ride this out for a while.”
Lynn (12-4) has allowed just one run in 19 innings his last three starts. Like Kyle Lohse, who allowed a run in seven innings Friday, and Jake Westbrook, who put up seven scoreless innings Saturday, the right-hander had to work for his outs.
”It was one of those days that command-wise I wasn’t where I needed to be early in the count,” Lynn said. ”But I was able to make pitches to get out of situations. You’ve got to do that sometimes.”
Fernando Salas and Marc Rzepczynski finished a combined five-hitter as the Cardinals earned consecutive shutouts for the first time since Oct. 1-2, 2010, against the Rockies.
The Cubs’ 14-5 record entering the series was the best in the majors over that span. Aside from pitching woes with Ryan Dempster’s 33-inning scoreless streak ending and Matt Garza lasting just three innings, the offense ended the game with 25 consecutive scoreless innings and was 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position in the series, including seven chances Sunday.
”It’s very tough,” said cleanup man Alfonso Soriano, who was 1 for 11 with five strikeouts in the series. ”I think you have to give a lot of credit to St. Louis, they pitched very well and have a very good team, a very good offense. I think we forget this weekend.”
Attendance of 42,411 just missed a third straight sellout, with some fans perhaps scared off by forecasts of triple-digit temperatures. It was 94 degrees at game time.
Holliday also doubled in the first, giving St. Louis a two-game total of 12 one day after tying the decades-old major league record with seven. The Cardinals also tied the franchise record with a 12-run seventh against four Cubs relievers in that game Saturday.
Jay added three singles for his first career four-hit game, with everything to the opposite field including a dribbler down the third-base line that he legged out in the seventh, plus a nice running catch at the warning track in center field to deny pinch hitter Joe Mather’s bid for extra bases in the seventh.
Jay entered the series finale in a 2-for-20 slump and did not start the series opener Friday.
Lynn pushed aside workload concerns in his first season in the rotation. In his previous three starts, he gave up 17 runs in 15 1/3 innings while steadfastly insisting that the problems were solely pitch location at key spots.
Lynn’s lone problem, inattentiveness to baserunners, didn’t hurt him. David DeJesus, who’s just 3 for 8 on steals, and Bryan LaHair, 2 for 3, stole second standing up to start the first two innings, but stayed there.
”After they told me what I was doing, they didn’t steal again,” Lynn said. ”You give up two steals with no throw with a good catcher back there, you know you screwed up. So you fix it.”
Wood almost got out of the first without damage when Allen Craig stumbled rounding third on Holliday’s one-out double and had to retreat. Jay bailed out Craig with an opposite-field flare to left that dropped just inside the line.
”I’m not sure what happened,” Wood said. ”Their series, I guess. They put the ball in play, got the hits when they needed them.
”It just wasn’t our series at all.”
The Cubs paid homage to Hall of Famer Ron Santo before taking the field in the bottom of the first, jumping over the third-base foul line and clicking their heels.
”Everybody did it and I think everybody is happy for the team and for the Ron Santo family,” Soriano said.
NOTES: Jeff Samardzija (6-8, 4.57) starts for the Cubs in the opener of a three-game series at Pittsburgh on Monday. Joe Kelly is 0-1 but with a stingy 2.11 ERA in four career home starts heading into the Cardinals’ opener of a four-game series against the Dodgers and Chad Billingsley (4-9, 4.30). … Jay is 7 for 13 with 21 RBIs for his career with the bases loaded. … The Cubs demoted RHP Rafael Dolis, 2-4 with a 6.44 ERA, to Triple-A Iowa before the game and recalled LHP Jeff Beliveau. He allowed three hits in 1 2/3 scoreless innings in his major league debut. … Holliday is batting .440 (48 for 109) his last 29 games with six homers, 14 doubles and 28 RBIs.