CHICAGO (AP) The St. Louis Cardinals are further down than usual in the NL Central standings. Still, they may see the major league-leading Chicago Cubs in October, and they're coming out of a four-game series at Wrigley Field with some extra confidence.
Stephen Piscotty hit a three-run homer, Brandon Moss followed with a solo shot one out later and the Cardinals used a five-run eighth inning to beat the Cubs 6-4 on Sunday night.
Piscotty hit his 17th homer off setup man Hector Rondon (2-3), who entered with a 3-1 lead in his first appearance since Aug. 2 because of a triceps injury. After pinch-hitter Kolten Wong and Greg Garcia singled, Piscotty lofted a shot to deep left-center field that put the Cardinals ahead 4-3 in front of 41,019 silenced fans.
Moss added his 21st homer, then Randal Grichuk doubled in a run off Travis Wood.
''Any time you're playing a good team like that late in the game, it's just more dramatic,'' Piscotty said. ''A great way to bounce back.
''We kind of know what our role is going forward,'' he added. ''We're fighting for that wild-card spot. Hopefully, this gives us some momentum.''
The Cardinals split a four-game series with Chicago, which dropped its second straight following an 11-game winning streak. St. Louis trails Chicago by 12 games in the division but also has a half-game lead on Miami for the second wild-card spot, keeping the Cards in line for a sixth straight playoff appearance.
''We've been down quite a few times early, and guys just keep playing the game and that's something I'm extremely proud about this club,'' manager Mike Matheny said.
Cubs starter John Lackey allowed only one unearned run and four hits before leaving with two outs in the seventh with muscle stiffness. Chicago doesn't consider the injury serious.
''Believe me, I've been through a lot worse,'' the 37-year-old Lackey said. ''I don't know, maybe an (it's an) old thing.''
Rondon said he felt ''really good.'' He just didn't have his normal command.
''I know I missed the location and they got me,'' he said.
Anthony Rizzo went 3 for 4 with a solo homer and three RBIs, and Ben Zobrist knocked in a run with a sac fly.
Lackey was sailing along and struck out five in his fourth straight solid start. But the right-hander grimaced in pain after throwing a pitch to Grichuk, walked off the field and was replaced by Justin Grimm. The reliever then struck out Grichuk.
''We're in a fortunate situation with the kind of (division) lead we have,'' Lackey said. ''We kind of have the leeway to do some things. We're just checking games off the schedule.''
Matt Bowman (2-4) got three outs in the seventh - and got out of a bases-load jam - in relief of Mike Leake for the win. Leake allowed three runs on six hits in six innings and retired 16 in a row over one stretch despite entering with a 9.00 ERA in his previous four starts.
Cardinals closer Seung Hwan Oh got the final five outs, including three strikeouts in the ninth, for his 11th save in 12 chances.
Leake settled into a pitchers' duel with Lackey with a little help from his defense.
St. Louis third baseman Jhonny Peralta made a diving stop, rolled and threw to first in one motion on Addison Russell's sharp grounder in the fourth.
Kris Bryant ended Leake's run with a triple to right-center with one out in the sixth. He scored on Rizzo's second RBI single to make it 3-1.
After the Cardinals took a 6-3 lead in the eighth, Rizzo hit his 25th homer in the bottom half.
LET'S PLAY TWO
Cubs manager Joe Maddon says he'd have no problem with MLB shortening the season by adding more doubleheaders, but not drawn-out day-night twinbills. Maddon would be for second games starting 30 minutes after the end of the first, and for teams adding two players to their rosters.
''I think the fans would dig it, too,'' said Maddon, while noting he understands the economics of day-night doubleheaders with separate admissions. ''If you have to put a premium on the price tag, I don't know.''
Cardinals: OF Matt Holliday (broken right thumb) is expected to be re-examined by the team's hand specialist on Monday. ... St. Louis LHP Kevin Siegrist left after striking out Zobrist in the eight with an apparent injury and was replaced by Oh. ''Kevin's had a lot of work and that was precautionary more than anything else,'' Matheny said.
Cubs: Rondon said before the game he was ''100 percent ready,'' but allowed four runs in 1/3 of an inning.
Cardinals: Following a day off Monday, LHP Jaime Garcia (9-8, 3.93) opens a two-game set in Houston against LHP Dallas Keuchel (7-11, 4.56). St. Louis also has Thursday off, but Matheny plans no changes to his strained rotation.
Cubs: Chicago also has Monday off, then hosts Milwaukee in a day-night doubleheader Tuesday. RHP Trevor Cahill (1-3, 3.07) is expected to come off the DL (right knee tendinitis) and start in the opener against Brewers RHP Matt Garza (4-4, 4.83). Chicago's Jason Hammel (12-5, 2.90) is 5-0 with a 1.16 ERA since the All-Star break and will take the mound in the nightcap against RHP Chase Anderson (7-10, 4.93).