- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 7, 2015

CHICAGO (AP) - The Chicago Cubs are having a tough time beating the St. Louis Cardinals this season, even when their pitcher is nearly unhittable.

Jon Lester took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before faltering as the Cardinals broke through to beat the Cubs 6-0 on Monday night. It dropped Chicago to 2-8 against its division rival this year.

“They’ve had our number. I definitely admit to that. There’s a long way to go yet.” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I am not discouraged whatsoever. All I keep seeing is that we can play with these guys. Now we need to go out there and prove it.”

Signed to a six-year, $155 million deal in the offseason, Lester (4-7) remained winless in nine straight starts since beating Pittsburgh on May 16. He allowed two hits and two unearned runs while striking out eight for Chicago, which had won five of six.

“When you’re used to winning, you understand how to win,” Lester said. “That will take some time here. The guys who have been a part of this organization haven’t won for a long time. So that will take some time to learn.”

John Lackey (7-5) threw seven scoreless innings, allowing four hits and one walk while striking out four. He improved to 3-1 in six career starts against the Cubs.

“It was fun facing my boy, for sure. He pitched great,” said Lackey, who was teammates with Lester from 2010-14 with the Boston Red Sox. “I knew I was going to have to pitch well because he was really dialed in tonight. He pitched good.”

Lester’s bid for his second career no-hitter ended with one out in the seventh when Kris Bryant couldn’t handle Jhonny Peralta’s sharp grounder in back of third base. It also ended Lester’s streak of 18 consecutive batters retired.

The Chicago defense then let Lester down when Bryant’s throw to second on Jason Heyward’s grounder went into right field. That was followed by Yadier Molina’s sacrifice fly to right, and Kolten Wong’s RBI single to left that put St. Louis ahead 2-0.

Lester also had the first hit of his career when he had an infield single in the second off Lackey. He had been 0 for 66 in his career and 0 for 30 this season. Lester got a standing ovation from the crowd and pointed to the sky.

Lackey and two relievers combined on a six-hit shutout as the Cardinals stayed won their third straight and 16th of 23 in a game that was delayed by rain for more than an hour in the middle of the eighth inning.

“They’re a veteran team. They do everything right,” Lester said. “They make the plays when they are in front of them. They have timely hitting. They understand that it takes nine innings to win a baseball game.

Lester got no help from his offense, which has scored three or more runs in just two of their last 13 games.

The Cubs had a good chance in the sixth when Anthony Rizzo and Bryant started the inning with singles. Miguel Montero struck out before Wong made a diving play on Starlin Castro’s sharp grounder to start a double play and end the inning.


Cardinals: OF Jon Jay (left wrist) has been told to do nothing for the next week in hopes the inaction will help the healing.

Cubs: RHP Rafael Soriano joined Double-A Tennessee after a brief time in Mesa, Arizona. Soriano was signed June 9 and had been in the Dominican Republic waiting for his immigration situation to clear up.


Rizzo was back in Chicago’s lineup one day after getting his first rest of the season. He went 1 for 4 and has reached base in 62 of his last 69 games.


Cardinals LHP Tyler Lyons (2-0, 5.09) faces Chicago RHP Jake Arrieta (8-5, 2.80) in the first game of Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader. In the nightcap, St. Louis LHP Tim Cooney (0-0, 5.40) will oppose Cubs RHP Dallas Beeler, who is expected to be called up from Triple-A Iowa before the game.

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