Starter Adam Wainwright, who had struggled in his previous two outings, cruised through the first four innings and looked as if he regained the form that made him a hero in the postseason last year. His curveball was breaking, he was getting ahead in counts and his fastball was moving.
In the fifth, it all stopped working for the first-year starter. The Cubs broke the game open, scoring seven runs and knocking Wainwright out of the game.
"There is some stuff that he can identify that's going to make him tougher and improve," manager Tony La Russa said. "He was doing it better early in the game and then he got away from it that one inning. He's going to be fine. He's a keeper. We're not doing anything else with him."
Jacque Jones started off the fifth with a double to left-center field. Catcher Henry Blanco followed with an RBI double. Left fielder Chris Duncan almost made the catch, but couldn't come up with it and crashed into the wall, knocking him off his feet.
After a sacrifice bunt by the pitcher, Wainwright walked Alfonso Soriano on five pitches. Ryan Theriot came up with an RBI single, followed by an RBI double by Derrek Lee. After an intentional walk to Aramis Ramirez, Wainwright was lifted for left-handed reliever Tyler Johnson. Johnson got Floyd to hit into a fielder's choice that scored a run, and then gave up an infield single to Mark DeRosa to load the bases.
Jones, batting for the second time in the inning, tripled to clear the bases and break the game open at 7-0.
Wainwright finished with his shortest outing of the year, going just 4 1/3 innings and giving up six earned runs on seven hits. He hasn't been on the right side of a decision since his first start of the year in Houston, where he went seven innings and gave up just one run on five hits. In his last three starts, the righty is 0-2 with a 9.77 ERA.
Wainwright was unavailable for comment after the game.
Wainwright isn't the only Cards starter who has struggled recently. Other than Braden Looper, a Cardinals starting pitcher hasn't gotten a win since April 8, when Kip Wells beat Houston. The four other starters have put up an 0-8 mark since that game.
The Cards offense hasn't been sharp either. Saturday's game marked the 16th time in 23 games that the Cards were held to three runs or fewer. Second baseman Adam Kennedy said the bats have to get going.
"We're going to have to win games 8-7. You're going to have to over the course of the season," Kennedy said. "[The starting pitchers] have been doing their fair share, for the most part, and we just haven't picked them up."
The lone highlight of the game for the Cards came in the seventh inning, when Albert Pujols hit a solo home run off of Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano. The 421-foot shot was Pujols' 256th homer of his career, all coming as a Cardinal. He passed Cardinals great Ken Boyer for second all-time on the franchise's home run list.
Pujols said even though the offense continues to struggle, it will even out throughout the year.
"Sometimes you're going to have pitchers throw a great game that day and the offense doesn't get going. And sometimes the offense is going to score a lot of runs," Pujols said. "It goes both ways. It's a long season. It's a part of the game. If you look at the whole game, we didn't get that many breaks."
The Cards didn't have many scoring chances the whole game, and botched one that they had. In the third inning, Kennedy singled to leadoff the inning and moved to second on a passed ball. With Wainwright batting, Kennedy was picked off second base. Wainwright went on to single in the next at-bat.
The loss drops the Cards to 3-9 at home this season.
"It wasn't a solid game," Kennedy said. "They had that big inning, but we just didn't play very well. The last couple of games we haven't played very well. A seven-run inning, especially with Zambrano on the hill, it's tough. It's quite an uphill battle you're looking at."