CHICAGO (AP) - The St. Louis Cardinals have an alarming theme this season on offense: too many double plays.
Matt Garza pitched seven sharp innings, Aramis Ramirez homered and the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-0 Saturday.
Garza (6-9) scattered five hits, struck out eight and won at Wrigley Field for the first time since June 27.
The Cardinals fell 8 1/2 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central. Milwaukee beat the New York Mets 11-9 on Saturday.
The Cardinals' best scoring chance against Garza came in the first inning. John Jay led off the game with a double. Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman drew one-out walks to load the bases.
The threat was extinguished by - you guessed it - a double play, as David Freese bounced into the inning killer.
``We've been talking about double plays all year,' Freese said. ``We've hit into a lot of double plays and it kills rallies. Pretty simple.'
The Cubs also turned a double play in the fifth.
Before the game, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said his team's propensity for hitting into DPs was ``brutal.' St. Louis has hit into 136 double plays this season, by far the most in the majors.
After the game, La Russa said the problem on Saturday was simply the opposing pitcher.
``I thought Garza was very good,' La Russa said. ``He made a lot of pitches to get out of that first inning. I thought he was very good. I thought Edwin (Jackson) was too, he just had that one tough inning where he left a couple balls in the middle of the plate.'
Ramirez's two-run homer highlighted a three-run burst in the fourth off Jackson (2-2). Jackson allowed five hits in seven innings after leaving his last start with a right hamstring cramp.
``I came out aggressive from the beginning,' Jackson said. ``It was just that one inning that I paid for a couple of balls left in the middle of the plate. That pretty much summed up the day.'
Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol finished off the shutout. Marmol earned his 29th save in 37 chances.
``With what Matt has been through this year with a lot of his starts, to see him pitch that well and get some run support made it even better for me,' Cubs manager Mike Quade said.
``It wasn't a fun day to be a hitter,' La Russa said.
Early on, it looked as if it might be more of the same for Garza after Jackson held the Cubs hitless and faced the minimum through three innings. Things changed in the fourth as the Cubs hit for the cycle.
Starlin Castro led off with a single and Ramirez connected one out later for his 24th home run. Carlos Pena then tripled and Marlon Byrd doubled.
Ramirez's homer was Chicago's 29th in August, most in the majors and was his big league-leading 12th first-pitch shot this season.
``I just paid for mistakes left in the middle of the zone and they hit them,' Jackson said.
It was Jackson's turn to be a hard-luck loser despite pitching effectively for the fourth time in five starts since he was traded to St. Louis. Jackson was making his first appearance in Chicago since being dealt by the crosstown White Sox on July 27.
``It's a crazy game when you can come out for (three) innings of shutout ball and then they can score runs that quick in one inning,' Jackson said. ``It's just a matter of staying out of big innings. I just wanted to go out after that inning was done and I felt like we were still in striking distance.'
As it turned out, that one rally for the Cubs was all Chicago needed with Garza clicking on all cylinders.
``When you face a guy like Garza, you've got to string some hits together, draw walks and hit mistakes,' Freese said. ``Do the little things. Obviously we didn't do any of that today.'
NOTES: Cubs manager Mike Quade said he hasn't spoken to pitcher Carlos Zambrano since he left the team's clubhouse in during a game Atlanta on Aug. 12, but expects to at some point. Zambrano was subsequently placed on the disqualified list. The Cubs have won five of seven games since Zambrano left the team. ... St. Louis OF Matt Holliday and SS Rafael Furcal were out of the lineup for what La Russa called a ``mental and physical part day off.' Holliday entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh. ... Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan left the team and returned to St. Louis to attend to a personal matter. He is expected to rejoin the club when it returns home on Monday. Bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist will fill in for Duncan. ... St. Louis' Lance Berkman, who entered August with 28 home runs, has gone homerless in 17 games so far this month. ... Chicago's Rodrigo Lopez will face St. Louis' Jake Westbrook in Sunday's series finale. Lopez is 4-6 with a 6.44 ERA in eight career games against St. Louis. Westbrook has a 9.72 ERA in two starts against the Cubs this season.
The Associated Press News Service
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