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CHC@STL: Molina's single plates a pair of Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- Though he scribbled out the same lineup for the first three games of the season, manager Mike Matheny made sure to clarify early that continuity was not going to continue at the expense of those on his bench.

Passing around playing time was going to be a priority, Matheny said. Turns out, it has also been a must.

Some early nagging injuries have provided the opportunity for Matheny to get his bench involved, and it was those part-time players that keyed Saturday's 5-1 win over the Cubs in front of 46,792 at Busch Stadium. How fitting, too, that the fourth-inning burst of offense benefited starter Lance Lynn, who, too, is filling in. His rotation spot was expected to belong to co-ace Chris Carpenter.

"Sometimes you start watching players going out there having real good at-bats, and you see that somebody has the potential to become a really good player," Carlos Beltran noted. "That's what happened here."

It's happened to more than one player, too.

St. Louis scored four times during a six-batter span in the fourth inning on Saturday. Three of the hits were recorded by players who have been fighting to prove worthy of playing time since Spring Training opened.

After Matt Holliday reached on a throwing error by Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, Matt Carpenter lifted a double over the head of right fielder David DeJesus. Carpenter had bumped up to the fifth spot in the lineup when David Freese was a late scratch, was playing first only because Lance Berkman is down with a calf injury, and likely wouldn't have even made the team had Allen Craig been healthy.

"I always feel like I have something to prove and want to make the most out of any chance I get," Carpenter said. "Hopefully I can continue that."

Added Matheny: "He's not afraid of the big situation."

With a pair of runners in scoring position, the Cardinals then put on a display of aggressiveness that Matheny had pushed all spring.

Yadier Molina drove home two when his grounder found a hole through the left side of the infield. Alfonso Soriano's throw to the plate arrived just behind Carpenter, who was aggressively waved home by third-base coach Jose Oquendo.

Molina swiped second on the next pitch, and Daniel Descalso legged out a triple on the following one. Tyler Greene capped the scoring with an RBI single to center.

"I kind of stopped executing, my pitches were all over the plate," Volstad said. "I guess at that point I need to slow it down and take a deep breath and go back to what I was doing the rest of the game, which is keep the ball down and executing the pitch."

This Cardinals offense has had a knack for scoring runs in bunches this season. All five runs the team scored in the series opener came in one frame. In nine games, the Cardinals have scored at least three runs in an inning eight different times.

"When this lineup is right," Matheny said, "there are not a lot of breaks all the way through."

The run support aided Lynn, who allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings. Lynn (2-0) gave up just four hits (all singles) and walked two in his second outing of the year. Three of those five baserunners reached in the sixth, which is when the Cubs scored their lone run.

Consecutive one-out base hits by the Cubs also ushered Matheny out of the dugout. Not because he saw Lynn tiring. Rather, he liked the matchup of having lefty reliever J.C. Romero face the pair of left-handed batters due up.

Romero entered with runners on the corners and preserved the three-run lead by striking out both hitters he faced. He has now made four scoreless appearances.

"I take it very serious," Romero said of the lefty-specialist role. "There is no room for mistakes. Every time you face a quality lefty it's with the game on the line, so you have to execute your pitches."

The bullpen followed his lead. Mitchell Boggs breezed through the seventh, and Marc Rzepczynski helped bail Fernando Salas out of potential trouble by recording the final out of the eighth. Though it wasn't a save situation, Jason Motte made quick work of the Cubs in the ninth.

"We couldn't get anything going," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "We couldn't get the right matchups in situations."

In between, outfielder Jon Jay padded the lead with a two-out, seventh-inning solo homer. The home run was No. 2 for Jay this season and pushed the club's total to a league-high 13.

The win, which followed a one-hour, 59-minute rain delay, ensured the Cardinals of a chance to claim another series win. They have not dropped a series yet this season. The victory also came on a day in which players and staff were presented with their 2011 World Series championship rings.

"It was nice," Jay said, "to get the win today on ring day." Comments