CHICAGO (AP) — While Joe Kelly was resting between innings a foul ball shot into the visiting dugout at Wrigley Field and struck him flush on the left elbow.
The St. Louis Cardinals right-hander could only wish his pitches had such precision Friday.
While Kelly struggled with his command, Luis Valbuena hit a decisive two-run homer in the seventh inning, and the Chicago Cubs overcame a three-run deficit to hand the Cardinals their fourth straight loss, 7-6.
The teams combined for five home runs and 23 hits with a persistent wind at their backs.
But Kelly felt the reason behind his shaky outing – five runs and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings – was his inability to spot his sinking fastball.
“The ball was leaking out, moving more than usual and I was kind of getting on the side of it,” he said. “I got two strikes on some hitters that I should be putting away, especially making better pitches.”
The Cardinals tied the score 5-5 on solo homers by Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday in the fifth inning. Pinch-hitter Oscar Taveras singled to break the tie in the sixth, but the lead was short-lived.
Kevin Siegrist (1-2) hit Anthony Rizzo with a full-count pitch to lead off the seventh. One batter later, Valbuena sent hit a first-pitch homer into the bleachers in center field.
“We had the matchups we wanted right there,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “We wanted (Siegrist) in that situation in that part of the lineup and a lefty ended up getting him.”
It was Valbuena’s first homer off a left-hander this season.
“I was looking for a fastball, and I got a fastball right there,” he said. “That’s why I got aggressive.”
Justin Grimm (3-2) pitched a scoreless inning for the win. Hector Rondon retired the side in the ninth for his 12th save in 15 chances.
Cubs starter Travis Wood did well to survive five innings after a rocky start. He allowed five runs – two earned – and seven hits with one walk.
Wood aided his cause with a solo homer off Kelly in the fourth inning, his third of the season.
Ryan Sweeney’s three-run homer pulled Chicago even at 3-3 in the second inning. Kelly had not allowed an earned run in 18 1-3 innings against the Cubs before then. Both homers came on 1-2 pitches.
One inning later, Sweeney singled home Valbuena, who had walked, for a 4-3 lead.
“It was just bad all around today,” Kelly said. “I just wasn’t very good. I’m going to go and watch some video tomorrow and try to figure out how I can make pitches when I need to make pitches.
“Like I said, I was getting ahead and walked them or threw the ball 2 feet, 3 feet, not where it was supposed to go.”
St. Louis struck first with three unearned three runs in the opening inning, when Wood was forced to throw 32 pitches largely because of two errors behind him.
Carpenter and Holliday singled, then rookie second baseman Arismendy Alcantara threw away a potential double-play grounder that allowed a run to score.
One out later, Jon Jay hit a two-run double, and when left fielder Chris Coghlan allowed the ball to get past him, the batter advanced to third base on the second error of the inning.
NOTES: Cubs RHP Edwin Jackson is not expected to miss a start. He left the game in the sixth inning on Thursday because of cramps in his pitching hand. … OF Justin Ruggiano (groin) was not in the lineup for the second consecutive game but was available off the bench once again. … St. Louis RHP Shelby Miller will make his first start since July 10 on Saturday. The veteran had been moved to the bullpen because of a minor back ailment and pitched one innings in his only relief appearance. “I felt a little tired (before), but at the same time, you always want to be out there,” he said. “Right now, I feel really strong. My body is where it needs to be.” … The Cardinals have a 4-6 record since All-Star C Yadier Molina (thumb) was placed on the DL.