ST. LOUIS • The offense the Cardinals couldn't find during a meandering and sour road trip to start the second half was waiting for them at home.
With a 7-0 victory Sunday at Busch Stadium against the Cubs, the Cardinals completed their first sweep of a series since visiting Kansas City in June and their first sweep at home since San Diego visited in May.
The Cardinals, who scored three or fewer runs in each of the six games on their second half-opening road trip, trounced their division rival Cubs, 23-1, in the three-game series. It was the Cardinals most-complete series of the season and came against a team that had won 14 of the previous 19 games before arriving at Busch Stadium.
The offense that had been lacking on the road stirred fervently in the final two games of the series, and the starting pitching that was wasted on the road trip remained sturdy throughout the series.
The Cubs never led in the series' 27 innings.
The Cardinals' pitchers held the Cubs scoreless for the final 25 innings of the series, polishing them off with back-to-back shutouts over the weekend. Lance Lynn did most of the work from the mound Sunday by throwing six shutout innings and crafting the Cardinals' sixth consecutive quality start.
Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran did the heavy lifting by offering back-to-back homers later in the game. Jon Jay set a career high with four hits as he opened the Cardinals' scoring with a two-run double in the first inning and finished 4-for-4 with the double and three singles.
The back-to-back shutouts are the Cardinals first Oct. 1 and 2 of 2010 against Colorado.
The Cardinals, who remain five games behind in the division as both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh won this afternoon, return to the field Monday to start a four-game series against the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers.
Lynn throws Cards' sixth consecutive quality start
One of the reasons Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak publicly rewrote the team's trade-deadline shopping list Saturday was on display again Sunday at the ballpark.
Lance Lynn completed six shutout innings and is in position to win his 12th game by continuing a trend for the Cardinals' rotation.
Lynn's start is the sixth consecutive quality start for the Cardinals -- that is a start of at least six innings and no more than three earned runs. Lynn limited the Cubs to four runs through his six innings. The Cardinals' starters have each pitched at least six innings in the games of this series, and now a Cardinals' starter has pitched at least six innings in every game they've played in July.
That's a stretch of 17 games.
The Cardinals have a quality start in 13 of their previous 15 games.
Lynn struck out five and walked three as the Cardinals staked him to a 4-0 lead in the first inning and pulled away for a 7-0 lead by the time he turned the game over the bullpen. Fernando Salas was the first reliever into the bullpen and he pitched a scoreless seventh.
Holliday, Beltran go back-to-back for 7-0 lead
This morning, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was asked if the term "all or nothing offensive" was offensive to him or unfair to his team.
"That's a fair assessment right now," he said. "I don't want it to be that way. There is too much potential not to know you can score a few runs each (game)."
He then was asked about the team being dependent on home runs.
That's hasn't been the case, he said.
The Cardinals went a recent stretch this month with only two home runs in a week, both of them hit by Yadier Molina. As the brownout on the offense has continued, home runs have been lacking. That would qualify as a no-duh statement. But when the offense erupted for 12 runs on Saturday night, there was not a homer in the mix. The Cardinals did it with seven doubles in the inning -- a torrent that tied a major-league record -- and nine extra-base hits overall. They didn't hit a home run.
As they took a 5-0 lead in today's game, they did not hit a home run. Again, it was doubles that dies most of the damage.
That is, until the fifth inning.
In back-to-back at-bats, Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran tagged Cubs' starter Travis Wood with home runs. Holliday's was a 436-foot bolt on the first pitch of the fifth inning. Beltran's was a beeline to left field that traveled an estimated 407 feat. It was his 200th home run in the National League. This was the seventh time the Cardinals have gone back-to-back with homers this season.
The Cubs have not scored in 21 innings against the Cardinals. In this series, the Cardinals have outscored their rivals, 23-1, so far.
Greene pushes lead to 5-0 with sac fly
Leadoff hitter Tyler Greene helped the Cardinals capitalize on a passed ball in the fourth inning to push the Cardinals' lead to 5-0 through four innings.
Daniel Descalso reached on a bunt single to open the inning. He advanced to third on a passed ball. Then a series of sacrifice bunts moved him over and moved him home.
Lance Lynn had the sacrifice bunt to get Descalso to third.
Greene skied a fly ball to left field to bring him home.
That's the play-by-play and it really just opens the door to offer some more interesting info on Jon Jay, who had the key two-run double that opened the Cardinals' scoring this afternoon. Jay is 2-for-2 in the game with both hits coming off Cubs starter Travis Wood, a lefty. That's been a recent trend for the lefthanded-hitting Jay.
According to numbers researched by columnist Bernie Miklasz, the Cardinals' center fielder has nine hits in his previous 23 at-bats against lefthanded pitchers. He has four doubles in that time and four RBIs, including the two today.
Since June 22, Jay is 10-for-50 (.200) against righties.
He's also hit for little power against the righthanded pitchers. Jay has just two doubles in the 50 at-bats and his slugging percentage (.240) is way below his on-base percentage (.310).
Jay strikes as Cards take 4-0 lead
Cardinals outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig received what was supposed to be a day off on Saturday evening to rest an ailing quadriceps, an injury he said was just one of those aches that comes from playing baseball.
Manager Mike Matheny hoped not to use him during the game, but had to in the seventh inning when another would-be rally was petering out and the pitcher's spot in the order was coming up.
He didn't imagine Craig having to leg out two doubles.
In the same inning.
"I was looking for the bat, not the wheels," Matheny joked later. "Pretty nice off day for him."
Craig is back in the lineup today, and again it's his his running that came into play. On Saturday, he became the first Cardinal in 35 years to have two doubles in the same inning. On Sunday, he stumbled around third base and nearly cost the Cardinals a chance at getting the first run across the plate. Jon Jay saved him from that eventuality.
Jay and catcher Tony Cruz each had two-run doubles as the Cardinals pounced on Travis Wood and the Cubs for a 4-0 lead through one inning. Jay worked the lefty through a 2-2 count and then lifted a double down the left-field line. Cruz poked a double down the right-field line to score the next two runs. Both doubles came with two outs.
Jay's struggles at the plate have been of the Cardinals' rewriting their shopping list at the deadline. The market is not rich with righthanded-hitting center fielders, so the Cardinals are weighing internal options for center field as well. Jay has seen his batting average sink significantly since returning from the disabled list and the shoulder injury that put him on there.
He said there is no "physical element" to his struggles.
Jay has a lot of moving parts to his swing -- including a hand pump that he calls "helicopter hands" -- and the timing of the different mechanisms has clearly been off. Matheny explained how Jay has been working in the cage to find synch with his approach again.
Cubs refresh bullpen in wake of 12-run drubbing
The relief pitchers the Cubs had to cycle through to get through the 12-run seventh inning on Saturday and absorb the innings left over by starter Matt Garza's triceps injury forced them into a move before this afternoon's game.
The Cubs brought lefty reliever Jeff Beliveau up from Class AAA Iowa and optioned on Rafael Dolis, the righty who was the last reliever to pitch in the 12-run seventh inning.
Beliveau, who will wear No. 16, is 4-5 with a 4.05 ERA in 34 relief appearances for Iowa this season. He was the team's Pitcher of the Year in 2011, a season he began at High-A Daytona.
Greene spells Furcal at leadoff
Starting with spring training, when he received ample amount of playing time at second base and a chance to win the job outright entering the season, Tyler Greene has been the Cardinals unrequited infielder -- that player the club has enormous faith in and yet hasn't been able to get consistent production from.
Manager Mike Matheny declined to "go down that road" when asked this morning if Greene's inconsistent play this season has limited his playing time, especially lately.
He did say that Greene's play was not a factor in how often the team has had to play shortstop Rafael Furcal this season.
Today, Greene is a part of getting Furcal a day off.
He's just not doing it as the replacement at shortstop.
Greene will bat leadoff -- Furcal's usual spot -- and play second base. Daniel Descalso will handle shortstop. Matheny explained that Greene has been getting most of his playing time this season at second and he didn't want to disrupt the career-long shortstop by shifting him out of the position he's played most this season. Descalso, a second baseman throughout most of his career, is more comfortable "bouncing around," Matheny said, and that's why he gets the start at short.
Matheny said he and Greene have had the discussion several times in recent weeks about how "consistency" is key at this level.
"Every day we come in here and look at what gives us the best chance to win, and some times that's getting guys the day off," Matheny said. "The feedback (Greene is getting) is consistency. We see flashes of really good idea of approach and application. It's difficult with sporadic playing time. I get that. We all talk about his talent and it's impressive but it has to be at this level on a consistent basis."
Here are the lineups submitted by the teams for today's scorcher (again) at Busch:
1. Tyler Greene, 2B
2. Allen Craig, 1B
3. Matt Holliday, LF
4. Carlos Beltran, RF
5. David Freese,3B
6. Jon Jay, CF
7. Tony Cruz, C
8. Daniel Descalso, SS
9. Lance Lynn, RHP
1. David DeJesus, CF
2. Starlin Castro, SS
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Alfonso Soriano, LF
5. Bryan LaHair, RF
6. Steve Clevenger, C
7. Darwin Barney, 2B
8. Luis Valbuena, 3B
9. Travis Wood, P
Matheny considers heat, workload when writing lineup
Looking to sweep a series for the first time since the end of interleague play last month, the Cardinals may opt to get some regulars out of the lineup this afternoon against the Cubs.
That will at least be on manager Mike Matheny's mind as he welcomes his players to the clubhouse this morning.
Matheny said Saturday to expect "one of those late lineups" for this afternoon's finale against the Chicago Cubs. Matheny will sometimes post a lineup on a column in the Cardinals' clubhouse, but on mid-afternoon games like today's that lineup is subject to change -- sometimes several times -- before first pitch. That's because Matheny likes to canvass the clubhouse and talk to his regulars about how they're feeling, how their swing feels, how much energy they have in there, and how they're dealing with the heat -- which will climb again into the 100s today.
Chief among the players who he may want to grab a day off for today is catcher Yadier Molina. That plan may have changed slightly when Matheny was able to get Molina out of the 12-0 win Saturday night with two innings remaining.
Check back here at StlToday.com and C-Beat throughout the day for news from Busch Stadium and coverage during the game.