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STL@CHC: Cardinals homer in five consecutive innings

CHICAGO -- The wind was blowing in for most of the afternoon at Wrigley Field on Friday. That did not, however, keep balls from flying out.

The Cardinals belted five home runs -- one in each of the first five innings, a first in franchise history -- to snatch a 9-6 win from the Cubs in the opening game of a three-game series. The victory came in front of 40,778, and made the Cardinals winners in seven of their last eight games.

"Relish these," manager Mike Matheny said, "and try to make this the habit."

He wasn't speaking so much to the long ball fun as he was the general production of the offense, which has scored 53 times during this 7-1 stretch. It has put the Cardinals eight games above .500, a position they were last in on May 11. The team was 20-12 on that date.

"When we were taking those questions [about the offense not producing] previously, our answers were that it's only a matter of time," Allen Craig said. "I think this is definitely what we're capable of. It's difficult to maintain that for a full season, but we have a really good offense and I wouldn't be surprised to see us keep going like we're going."

The five home runs, which tied St. Louis' season-best, came off the bats of five different players, beginning with Matt Holliday. Holliday's first-inning homer was a solo shot, as were three of the other long balls. Lance Berkman (third inning), Matt Carpenter (fourth) and Craig (fifth) had the others.

Berkman's blast was notable in that it pushed him to 1,200 career RBIs. It also came in his first start since suffering a bone bruise to his right knee.

"That's the kind of offense we have," Berkman said. "We're not the '82 Cardinals. Fortunately, we have guys who can hit them in bunches."

The only homer hit with a runner on base came in the second inning, when Yadier Molina sent a two-run blast out onto Waveland Avenue.

Matheny has been quick to dismiss suggestions that he is at the helm of a home run-hitting team. His point is that his team is more complete than one taking all-or-nothing swings. Still, there is no hiding the power potential of this bunch. The Cardinals now rank third in the National League with 110 homers.

By opening the game with a long ball in five consecutive innings, the Cardinals supplanted the Astros as the most recent team to accomplish the feat. Houston did so against the Rockies on Oct. 2, 2004.

"There were just a lot of hard-hit balls," Matheny said. "There were a lot for us and a lot against us. It wasn't one of those days where the ball goes up and it might go out. They were just hit."

All five home runs came off Cubs starter Travis Wood.

"Things didn't go as planned," said Wood, who had allowed two homers and seven runs in a start against the Cardinals last Sunday. "I missed some pitches, and they didn't miss the pitches that I missed. They ended up hitting them out of the park."

The Cardinals needed the extensive run support to assist Lance Lynn, who was knocked around with ease early. Lynn became the first Cardinals starter since June to not go at least six innings. He exited after the fifth, having allowed six runs on eight hits.

The six runs matched a season-worst for Lynn, though he credited the Cubs more than he criticized himself. Location, Lynn said, wasn't a problem. Rather, the issue was throwing pitches that the Cubs -- who had just seen Lynn last weekend -- were anticipating.

"It just seemed like they knew what I was trying to do," said Lynn, who had allowed only one run in his first 13 innings out of the All-Star break. "They weren't going to get beat on that today. The time before, I was able to make pitches and get out of innings with runners on. Today, when they got the runner on, they scored."

The Cubs opened the first inning with three consecutive hits off Lynn. The last of the bunch was a two-run homer by Anthony Rizzo that pushed Chicago in front, 3-1.

Lynn then allowed the Cubs to even the game at 6-6 in the third inning. Four hits produced three Chicago runs in that frame. Lynn did at least rebound to face the minimum in his final two innings on the mound. He got a lift from center fielder Jon Jay near the end of the day, too, as Jay made a sensational diving catch toward the outfield wall to retire Rizzo in the fifth.

The bullpen, as it has been for most of the month, was strong en route to tossing four scoreless innings. Brian Fuentes relieved Lynn and retired all three batters he faced in his Cardinals debut. He struck out two.

The outing was Fuentes' first in the Majors since a June 30 appearance with Oakland.

"There's a bit of nervousness, because I hadn't pitched in a while," Fuentes said. "Once I got out there, it all went away. I thought it went well. I was controlling the strike zone, staying ahead of guys. I was really happy."

The bullpen's only minor hiccup came in the eighth when the potential tying run came up with one out. Marc Rzepczynski relieved Fernando Salas and ended the inning without a run scoring. Jason Motte followed in the ninth to collect save No. 23.

By the end of the day, the bullpen had lowered its July ERA to 1.99.

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