CHICAGO — With Saturday’s 10-4 rout of the Chicago Cubs, the St. Louis Cardinals have split 18 games this year against the best team in the major leagues.

If the Cardinals reach the playoffs and win the wild-card game, they would return to Wrigley Field for the start of the NL Division Series.

“They’re very good offensively. They can match up out of the bullpen,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “They have a lot of veterans on the team, guys who have been there, done that. They’re very formidable, I think.”

Yadier Molina drove in four runs and Stephen Piscotty homered as the Cardinals got to Jason Hammel early. Randal Grichuk added three RBIs and Jhonny Peralta had three hits and scored three runs for the Cardinals.

“The records and all that don’t mean that much,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “We’ve got a whole lot of fighting left to do.”

Hammel (15-10) allowed six runs and six hits while getting just seven outs, hurting his bid for a postseason rotation spot. A day after clinching the NL’s best record, the Cubs were denied their 99th win and a record 57th at Wrigley Field.

Dexter Fowler finished a home run shy of the cycle, Ben Zobrist had a two-run triple and Willson Contreras homered in the ninth for the Cubs, who are 3-6 at home against St. Louis and 53-17 against other teams.

“They’re obviously the best team in the league,” Molina said. “We respect that. But at the same time we come here thinking about winning.”

Alex Reyes (4-1) needed 115 pitches to get through five innings. But the rookie settled down after a tough start and allowed three runs and six hits with six strikeouts.

The right-hander’s solid previous outing renewed talk he could supplant John Lackey as the No. 4 playoff starter. But Hammel saw his ERA rise from 3.56 to 3.83 after Maddon’s early hook.

Molina had a two-run double and Grichuk a two-run single in the first. An inning later, Piscotty crushed Hammel’s slider 450 feet onto Waveland Avenue for a solo homer. Hammel was lifted after giving up two more hits in the third.

Molina added a two-run single for his third hit in a three-run seventh against Hector Rondon. Piscotty’s third hit in the eighth off Rob Zastryzny scored another run.

Reyes had his 11 1/3-inning scoreless streak snapped in Chicago’s two-run first, and Fowler’s RBI double an inning later made it 5-3. But Reyes allowed just two hits over his final three innings.

“When you have 71 pitches after three (innings), you typically got a lot more on you than the three runs they had,” Cardinals manager Mike Mathney said. “He just did a nice job of managing the innings.”

Maddon cleared his bench in the late innings as Chicago’s four-game winning streak ended. The Cubs fell to 9-9 against St. Louis.

“They would be very tough,” Maddon said of a potential playoff matchup. “They’re very good offensively. They can match up out of the bullpen. They do a lot of things.”


Cardinals: Mathney said LF Matt Holliday (broken right thumb) was “pretty sore” a day after his first live batting practice session. He’ll see a hand specialist Monday before being cleared to hit again. . SS Aledmys Diaz (arm fatigue) started after a day off. . Kolten Wong (shoulder) didn’t start after an outfield spill Friday.

Cubs: LF Jorge Soler (right side soreness) started for the first time since Sept. 16. . RHP Pedro Strop (knee, groin) reported no pain a day after his first appearance since Aug. 10.


Maddon pushed his bullpen game to Thursday in Pittsburgh. Kyle Hendricks, Lackey and Jake Arrieta will start the first three games against the Pirates.


LHP Jon Lester (18-4, 2.36 ERA) faces Cardinals RHP Carlos Martinez (15-8, 3.16) in Chicago’s regular-season home finale Sunday night. Lester is 8-0 with a 1.05 ERA in his last 10 starts.