Subscribe for 99¢
St. Louis Cardinals v San Diego Padres

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Luke Weaver pitches during a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Diego Padres on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Photo by Chris Lee, clee@post-dispatch.com

The visiting Chicago Cubs jumped on rookie righthander Luke Weaver for four runs in the first and eight earned runs over three innings, going on to a 10-2 blowout win over the Cardinals before a crowd of 42,516 Monday night at Busch Stadium.

With the series-opening victory, the Cubs dropped their magic number to clinch the NL Central Division title to one and eliminated the Cardinals from the division race.

The Cardinals (81-75) trail Milwaukee (82-74) by a game and are still 2 1/2 games behind Colorado (84-73) in the race for the second and final NL wild-card spot. The Rockies lost 5-4  to visiting Miami on Monday while the Brewers were idle.

The Cardinals' four-game set with the Cubs continues with games 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, 6:08 p.m. Wednesday and 6:15 p.m. Thursday.

Weaver (7-2) entered having won his six previous starts, allowing just six earned runs over his last 36 1/3 innings. His earned-run-average went from 2.05 to 3.23 on Monday.

The Cubs set the tone early, scoring four first-inning runs. With one out, Kris Bryant singled sharply to right and Anthony Rizzo walked. Willson Contreras followed with a line drive to left, but Tommy Pham came on to make a sliding catch. After Ben Zobrist loaded the bases with an infield hit, Addison Russell sent a 1-2 offering from Luke Weaver into the right-field corner for a double that cleared the bases and put the visitors on top 3-0.

Former Cardinal Jason Heyward followed with a double to right-center, making it 4-0.

With a two-out blast in the second, Bryant hit his 29th homer of the season for a 5-0 Cubs' lead.

With one out in the bottom of the second, Jedd Gyorko connected for his 19th homer of the season, a 3-2 shot down the left-field line, not far from Big Mac Land..

In the Chicago third, Javier Baez hit a three-run homer, pushing the Chicago lead to 8-1.

In the Chicago seventh, Yadier Molina was hit by two foul tips during a Bryant at-bat and was lifted from the game. Carson Kelly took over behind the plate. An inning or so later, the Cardinals announced that Molina was in the concussion protocol.

With his first career pinch-hit homer, Lafayette High product Luke Voit cut the lead to 8-2 with a one-out shot in the seventh.

In the Chicago eighth, pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella and ex-Cardinal Jon Jay drove in runs with two outs to make it 10-2.

The Cubs outhit the Cardinals 12-6, getting a three-run homer and another hit from Baez and a three-run double from Russell. Bryant had three hits, including a solo homer. Zobrist added a pair of hits, with Heyward,, La Stella and Jay driving in the other Chicago runs.

Veteran lefty Jon Lester (12-8) pitched six strong innings for the win. He allowed five hits and two walks, striking out four.

Gyorko hit a solo homer and had three hits for the Cardinals, who received a two-hit game from ex-Cub Dexter Fowler and a solo homer from pinch-hitter Voit..

CUBS COME OUT SWINGING

The Cubs jumped on top with four first-inning runs Monday at Busch Stadium.

With one out, Kris Bryant singled sharply to right and Anthony Rizzo walked. Willson Contreras followed with a line drive to left, but Tommy Pham came on to make a sliding catch. After Ben Zobrist loaded the bases with an infield hit, Addison Russell sent a 1-2 offering from Luke Weaver into the right-field corner for a double that cleared the bases and put the visitors on top 3-0.

Jason Heyward followed with a double to right-center, making it 4-0.

Veteran lefty Jon Lester gave up a two-out single to ex-Cub Dexter Fowler but followed with a strikeout of Paul DeJong to end the opening inning.

With two outs in the second, Bryant connected for his 29th homer of the season and a 5-0 Cubs lead.

In the bottom of the inning, a couple of pitches after Russell wiped out the nachos of a Cards' fan while trying to chase down a foul pop, Jedd Gyorko sent a 3-2 pitch down the left-field line for his 19th homer of the season to make it 5-1.

In the Chicago third, Contreras led off with a single and Heyward walked with two outs. Javier Baez followed with a three-run blast off the back wall of the Cubs bullpen. His 19th homer of the season made it 8-1.

The Cardinals got a one-out hit from Gyorko and a walk from Stephen Piscotty in the fourth. The runners moved up on an infield out, but a towering shot from pinch-hitter Randal Grichuk was hauled in on the warning track by left fielder Zobrist.

In the Chicago seventh, Yadier Molina was hit by two foul tips during a Bryant at-bat and was lifted from the game. Carson Kelly took over behind the plate. An inning or so later, the Cardinals announced that Molina was in the concussion protocol.

Luke Voit connected for a solo homer with one out in the seventh to make it 8-2. It was his fourth homer of the year and his first as a pinch-hitter.

In the Chicago eighth, pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella and ex-Cardinal Jon Jay drove in runs with two outs to make it 10-2.

ROOKIE WEAVER GETS START VS. CUBS

With a week left in the regular season, the Cardinals begin a crucial four-game series against the NL Central-leading Cubs with a 7:15 p.m. game Monday at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals (81-74) trail the defending World Series champion Cubs (87-68) by six games and a ½-game behind the second-place Milwaukee Brewers (82-74).

The Cubs, who won eight of nine meetings with the Cardinals at Wrigley Field this season, split six early-season games against Busch. The teams have not met in St. Louis since May 13.

In the battle for the second and final NL wild-card spot, the Colorado Rockies (84-72) lead the Brewers by 2 games and the Cardinals by 2 ½. Arizona has clinched the first wild-card berth in the NL.

The Redbirds will close out the regular season with a three-game weekend set against the Brewers at Busch.

“Great schedule-making. You go right down to the wire with some teams that are right there,'' manager Mike Matheny from the dugout prior to Monday's game. “But it's the same boring answer: we have to play tonight, gotta play really good. Not changing any of the expectation that we've had up to this point. Leave nothing on this field; it just makes it very simple what the ask is every single day. They're not going to be asked to come out and do something more than what they've already done....

“Looking forward to watching this team compete.”

Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak agreed: “We've always said any time you can make that last month count, that's good, and now that you're going into that final week and still have a mathematical chance, there's something to be said for that. But we have to start winning games and it has to start tonight.”

Asked for his feelings about the Cubs' desire to clinch in St. Louis, Matheny was diplomatic.

“I want to avoid any team win any night,'' he said. “I don't put a lot of thought into that. I just want to play this game out. I'm just looking forward to the competition and looking forward to the atmosphere and excitement I see with our team and we always get with our fans. Imagine they're be some support from up north, as there usually is, so all that put together being this time of year, it's just a great time to be involved with the game of baseball.”

Monday's pitching matchup features rookie Luke Weaver (7-1, 2.05 ERA) for the Cards and veteran lefty Jon Lester (14-9, 4.56) for the Cubs.

Weaver has been the Cards' top starter of late, winning his last six starts and allowing just six earned runs over his last 36 1/3 innings.

“It all comes down to being able to avoid the distractions,'' Matheny said. Weaver “has had a great run here, but my suggestion would be to do what you've been doing and figure out how to get better. Just every day, work to get better not because of the situation but because that's how we're driven with the pursuit of excellence.”

Lester makes his fifth start of the season against the Cardinals and is 1-1 with a 3.28 ERA. The veteran lefty struggled with his command in his last outing, allowing eight hits, three walks and seven runs over 4 1/3 innings in an 8-1 loss at Tampa Bay.

Following a day off on Sunday, catcher Yadier Molina returns to the Cardinals' lineup and is batting fifth. The home team's outfield on Monday has Tommy Pham in left, Dexter Fowler in center and Stephen Piscotty in right.

The Cardinals and Cubs will play Tuesday at 7:15 p.m., Wednesday at 6:08 p.m. and Thursday at 6:15 p.m.

INJURY UPDATE

Mozeliak provided the following information Monday after meeting with Cardinals' trainers:

• On righthander Adam Wainwright: “He's available, if needed. Clearly, we want to be smart about how he's used. Ultimately, how he feels will dictate usage.”

Asked about the possibility of a postseason medical procedure, Mozeliak added: “Once the season is over, he will be re-evaluated to determine what the next step is.... Obviously, that outing on Saturday night was not something you want to have to watch him endure if you don't have to, but we'll see how he responds in the next couple of days.”

• On first baseman/outfielder Jose Martinez, who was wearing a splint with a thumb injury: “Talking with our medical people, they feel like today, he would be down. He'll be re-evaluated and hopefully as soon as tomorrow, he'll be ready.”

• On infielder Matt Carpenter, who's playing through a shoulder injury: “Right now, he's cleared to play, he's in the lineup and cleared to contribute. In terms of just getting through the season, he should be fine.”

And after the season? “I would imagine that might just be rest,” Mozeliak said.

Monday's lineups:

CARDINALS

Matt Carpenter, 1B

Tommy Pham, LF

Dexter Fowler, CF

Paul DeJong, SS

Yadier Molina, C

Jedd Gyorko, 3B

Stephen Piscotty, RF

Kolten Wong, 2B

Luke Weaver, P

CUBS

Jon Jay, CF

Kris Bryant, 3B

Anthony Rizzo, 1B

Willson Contreras, C

Ben Zobrist, LF

Addison Russell, SS

Jason Heyward, RF

Javier Baez, 2B

Jon Lester, P

Keep up with the latest Cardinals coverage from our award-winning team of reporters and columnists.