The St. Louis Cardinals kept Ryan Dempster's victory drought alive. Small consolation for a team plagued by sloppy play late and silenced late at the plate while losing their fourth in a row.
Alfonso Soriano singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning of the Chicago Cubs' 6-4 victory on Monday night. The losing streak is the worst for the NL Central leaders, who committed a season-high three errors.
"This team's got a lot of character and we knew it wasn't going to be smooth sailing the whole year," Lance Berkman said. "This is one of those spots.
"We're just going to have to try to put an end to this little skid and get back on the right track."
Bryan LaHair had three hits for the Cubs, including a two-run homer — his ninth overall and fourth against the Cardinals — to break a 1-for-14 slump. Chicago's runs in the eighth and ninth innings came too late for Dempster, winless in 15 starts dating to last August.
Shawn Camp (2-1) allowed one hit in two innings of work and Rafael Dolis worked the ninth for his fourth save in six chances for the Cubs, who won for only the fourth time in their last 13 games in St. Louis despite stranding a season-worst 14 runners.
Jake Westbrook became the latest Cardinals starter who couldn't pitch deep into the game, allowing four runs on 11 hits in five innings. Of the other four pitchers during this run through the St. Louis rotation, only rookie Lance Lynn lasted six innings.
"Tonight was weird for me. I felt like I made some decent pitches that they found ways to get basehits on, and obviously I made a couple of mistakes that hurt me," Westbrook said. "I can't do that. I can't pitch that way.
"I've got to get deeper in the ballgame."
The Cardinals hadn't lost four straight at home since a five-game skid Aug. 14-20, 2010.
Dempster gave up four hits over the first five innings before surrendering four runs on five hits in the sixth that tied it at 4. Three of Dempster's first five innings were perfect and he retired 10 of 11 batters from the second to the fifth inning, totaling just 27 pitches.
Soriano's go-ahead RBI single off Mitchell Boggs (0-1) salvaged the Cubs' eighth after the Cardinals turned an unusual 3-5-4 double play earlier in the inning. Berkman fielded Starlin Castro's popped-up bunt at first base and threw to third to force David DeJesus, then David Freese's relay to first was there in plenty of time to get Castro.
The Cubs still had Tony Campana on second, and after LaHair was intentionally walked, Soriano's first hit in 10 career at-bats against Boggs — seven of them strikeouts — gave them the lead.
Freese's wild throw to first in a bid for a double play on another bunt allowed an insurance run to score in the ninth against Boggs. The Cardinals committed a season-high three errors, two in the ninth.
Boggs pitched two innings for the first time this month to try and save a well-used bullpen. Manager Mike Matheny opted to stay on the offensive in the sixth, lifting Eduardo Sanchez after a perfect inning for pinch hitter Matt Carpenter, who flied out with a man on first to end the sixth.
"I wanted Sanchez to throw a second inning, I really did," Matheny said. "I just think there are limited opportunities, and when you get them, you jump on them."
Dempster entered with a majors-best 1.02 ERA, the lowest for a Cubs pitcher winless through the first five starts since the NL began tracking earned runs in 1912. He is 0-1 mainly because the Cubs have totaled just eight runs combined in his starts. The Cardinals got to Dempster after the Cubs' four-run sixth, and the right-hander exited with a 1.74 ERA.
LaHair's two-run homer was the highlight of the Cubs' four-run fifth, and he added a pair of singles and his first career steal in the seventh.
Molina's two-run double and Skip Schumaker's tying RBI single were the key hits in the Cardinals' four-run sixth. Schumaker is a career .431 hitter against Dempster, the best ever against the right-hander with a minimum of 30 at-bats, according to STATS LLC.
One of the early hits in the rally was Matt Holliday's liner off the left-field wall that gave Soriano a perfect rebound to hold him to a single.
Both teams had a three-hit inning without scoring early. The Cardinals loaded the bases in the second, the last two infield hits, before Westbrook struck out for the third out. The Cubs topped that in the third, getting three hits plus a walk that added up to zilch because David DeJesus was an easy out trying to steal after a leadoff hit and Ian Stewart struck out on a pitch near the dirt on a full count for the third out.
Notes: The Cardinals' Carlos Beltran, who entered with six homers in six games and a NL-leading 13, did not start due to knee soreness and Matheny didn't know if he'd play in Tuesday's series finale. He's 6 for 12 against Dempster with a homer and three RBIs. ... The three-hit game was LaHair's third of the season, matching his career best. He has reached base safely in 31 consecutive games and is 8 for 19 with eight RBIs against the Cardinals. ... The Cubs have scored three or fewer runs when Dempster was in the game 13 times during his winless drought. ... Rafael Furcal was 0 for 5, ending a 12-game hitting streak in which he batted .510 (25 for 49) with two homers.