Cubs’ offense backs Lilly in 9-3 victory over Cardinals

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ST. LOUIS (AP)—The top offense in the major leagues surfaced again on Saturday. Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella only asks that his team try to minimize the lows.

Mike Fontenot hit a three-run homer and had a career-best four RBIs, leading Chicago to a 9-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Geovany Soto added a two-run double in a four-run sixth for the Cubs, who finished with 12 hits and are averaging six runs per game. They’ve also scored three or fewer in 13 games, five times during a recent stretch of six losses in eight games.

“We’ve got a good offense,” Fontenot said. “We’ve had a little lull for a little bit, but I think in the long scheme of things our offense will come through.”

It was more than enough for Ted Lilly, who worked seven solid innings, recorded his 1,000th strikeout and added his second career extra-base hit. The only thing Piniella didn’t like about Lilly’s day was his needless belly-flop side into second on what should have been a stand-up double to start the seventh.

“Oh Lord,” Piniella said, shaking his head. “Left his hands nice and low so the shortstop or second baseman could step on them or he could jam them.”

Kyle Lohse (3-1) faced 10 batters in the fourth and allowed eight runs overall in six-plus innings, entering the game with a 2.36 ERA and exiting at 3.79. He had won seven consecutive decisions dating to last season.

Lohse matched a career worst for runs allowed and Fontenot’s homer was the first he had given up in 42 2-3 innings dating to 2007.

“That one inning was a bad time,” Lohse said. “One inning where it just got out of whack.”

Albert Pujols hit his sixth homer for St. Louis and has reached base in all 31 games, two shy of his career-best start in 2005. Yadier Molina also went deep in front of a Busch Stadium-record sellout crowd of 46,792.

Lilly (2-4) hit a season best for innings, allowing three runs and six hits. He is 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA in his last three starts, recovering from an 0-3 record and 9.16 ERA his first four outings.

Lilly struck out four, giving him 1,002 for his career, and walked none while throwing a season-high 112 pitches. He believes he’s been making do with lower velocity, although he’s happy with his arm strength.

“I don’t even know what it is on the gun, I just don’t think it’s to where it’ll be at some point, and hopefully it’s soon,” Lilly said. “I still feel like even if that’s not the case I should be able to go out there and win games and change speeds and locate.”

Kosuke Fukudome had a pair of doubles among his three hits and drove in two runs. The Cubs had a season-high six doubles, rebounding from a pair of wrenching losses, and have yet to lose three in a row.

Seven straight Cubs reached safely with one out in the fourth, with Lohse unraveling after giving up hits to Lee and Fukudome after being ahead 0-2 in the count against both. Fukudome doubled off the base of the right-field wall for an RBI and Soto had a two-run double before Fontenot hit a three-run drive into the St. Louis bullpen for a 6-0 lead.

Lohse said he tried to throw a cutter down and inside to Fukudome, and instead the pitch caught the inside corner. He said the home run pitch to Fontenot was aimed at the inside corner but drifted over the plate.

“It’s a game of inches,” Lohse said. “If it gets in there two or three more inches, it’s a popup.”

Fukudome was elevated to the cleanup spot from fifth with Aramis Ramirez nursing a sore left wrist after getting hit by a pitch on Friday. Ramirez could be back in the lineup on Sunday.

Fukudome said through an interpreter that the switch was a surprise.

“I didn’t change anything, my approach was just the same as any other day,” he said. “I think we’re a better team when Ramirez is in the lineup.”

The Cubs batted around again in a three-run seventh with Lilly’s leadoff double chasing Lohse and the rest of the damage off Russ Springer. Alfonso Soriano and Fukudome had RBI doubles and Fontenot walked with the bases loaded.


Cubs RHP Juan Mateo, who was outrighted to Class A Daytona on Friday, declined the move on Saturday and elected for free agency. … Lilly is 4-2 with a 3.06 ERA against the Cardinals. … The former attendance record at 3-year-old Busch Stadium was 46,237 last Sept. 22 against the Astros.

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