With postseason chances fading, Cardinals host Cubs

With their playoff hopes essentially on life support, the Cardinals need Kyle Lohse to continue his incredible pitching today.

The Cardinals suffered another devastating loss Friday, 5-1 to the Cubs. The defeat and Milwaukee's victory over the Marlins gave the Brewers the NL Central title. The Cardinals also fell three games behind Atlanta in the wild card race with just five games remaining because the Braves beat Washington Friday night.

Lohse is 6-1 over his last 10 outings, with the only defeat in that span coming to the Dodgers on Aug. 23. Lohse hasn't given up an earned run in two of his last three starts, blanking Philadelphia and Milwaukee, two teams headed to the playoffs. He's 2-4 in 12 career starts vs. the Cubs.

Rodrigo Lopez tries to win a third straight start for the Cubs this afternoon. The righty has posted victories at Cincinnati and at home vs. Houston recently. The one sore spot was that he allowed four homers to the Reds on Sept. 12, but the offense picked him up in a 12-8 triumph.

Lopez is 2-5 with a 6.70 ERA in nine games (seven starts) against the Cardinals. He is looking to snap a four-game losing streak to the Redbirds since June 11, 2010. During that time, he's 0-4 with an 8.66 ERA over five games (three starts).

Alfonso Soriano's tiebreaking three-run homer in the eighth inning snapped a 1-1 tie in last night's opener of this three-game series to lift Chicago to the win.

Looking at a short window to make another push, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa called the loss "harmful." It was just their fourth setback in 16 games.

After St. Louis starter Chris Carpenter allowed just one run in seven innings, Soriano homered off Kyle McClellan (12-7) with one out in the eighth, belting a 2-0 slider into the Cubs bullpen to make it 4-1.

"We felt like we had to win this series to have a shot," La Russa said. "That means we have to win tomorrow and the next day."

Starlin Castro capped a historic night with an RBI single in the ninth inning for an insurance run.

Earlier, Castro looped a single into center field on the second pitch of the game to become the youngest player -- and first shortstop -- in franchise history with 200 hits in a season.

Castro, 21, went 2-for-5 and is only the fifth major league player since 1940 to reach the 200-hit milestone at 21 years old or younger. The last player was Alex Rodriguez in 1995 with the Seattle Mariners.

He also reached base safely for the 35th straight game, breaking a tie for the Cubs record among shortstops with Woody English, who reached base 34 games in a row in 1929.

"He's just going to get better and better and the sky's really the limit for him," said Cubs starter Ryan Dempster. "It's fun to watch somebody grow up with so much talent and have him on your team and really be a guy who will be one of the premier shortstops in the league for years to come."

St. Louis has won eight of 13 meetings with Chicago this season, with a 5-2 mark at home.