ST. LOUIS -- Scott Feldman had never faced the Cardinals before Thursday, and after spending three days watching from the dugout, he discovered what everyone else already has: These guys are really good.
Matt Holliday hit a tiebreaking RBI single and a solo home run to back Lance Lynn and lift the Cardinals to a 6-1 victory over Feldman and the sputtering Cubs, who dropped to 9-24 against the National League Central.
Feldman had to battle, and served up six hits over 5 1/3 innings, which was all the Cardinals needed. He dropped to 0-4 with a 6.65 ERA against NL Central teams.
"I knew going in that they had a good lineup and obviously, [Yadier Molina] is swinging the bat about as good as anybody I've ever seen right now," Feldman said. "You've got to make your pitches and at the same time, be aggressive. I think you've got to tip your cap tonight. They did a great job and just beat me."
Lynn did his homework, too. Chicago managed two hits in Wednesday's 4-1 loss, and mustered three off Lynn over six innings as the right-hander picked up his 10th win to join teammate Adam Wainwright and Washington's Jordan Zimmermann on top of the NL leaderboard.
"Coming here, we knew it was going to be tough to score runs and obviously, it was," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "We didn't swing the bats at all. We only had five hits today, so seven hits in two days ain't going to win too many ballgames, no matter how good your pitching is. Our starting pitching was pretty good in all four games against the best offense in baseball. We never really put any threats together. Today we weren't too aggressive."
After the Cardinals took a 1-0 lead on David Freese's run-scoring groundout in the second, Welington Castillo tied the game with a leadoff home run in the third, his first since April 8. But the Cubs missed an opportunity in the fifth when they loaded the bases with two outs, and Lynn got Starlin Castro to pop up to Molina in foul territory.
"[Castro] is a guy who doesn't scare from those situations," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Getting the pop up was a big out for us."
"I just tried to go see one pitch, and I hit it," Castro said of the at-bat. "That team, they have pretty good pitching. [Lynn's] fastball is a little bit sneaky, and I tried to get on top and it didn't happen."
The Cubs shortstop finished the seven-game road trip 4-for-30, and he's now batting .232 for the season. A year ago, he was batting .300.
"He's not the Lone Ranger in all this," Sveum said. "There isn't a whole lot of hitting going on."
Alfonso Soriano went 2-for-29 on the trip, while Anthony Rizzo was 5-for-21, and the Cubs completed the trip, 3-4.
With the game tied at 1 and one out in the Cardinals' second, Matt Carpenter doubled and Carlos Beltran walked. Holliday then hit a grounder toward Castro, who was blocked on the play by third baseman Luis Valbuena. Holliday was credited with an infield hit, and Carpenter scored.
"It was a chopper, and it hit something in the dirt," Castro said. "I couldn't see the ball because [Valbuena] was in front."
Holliday led off the sixth with his 11th home run, driving the first pitch from Feldman to straightaway center. The Cardinals then loaded the bases, and pinch-hitter Allen Craig slapped a two-run single to right off Hector Rondon. Carpenter added an RBI single to open a five-run lead.
"The whole game was a grind," Feldman said. "They had runners on a lot, and it was getting my pitch count up there."
The Cubs need to generate some offense somehow. Castro said he just has to keep working.
"It's tough, but I keep my mind positive," he said. "There's four months left -- just keep aggressive and keep playing hard. I know I'm working hard every day. When I get out [of this], I'll be good for the rest of the season. It helps me, too, because, when I get out of this, I know if it happens again, I know I have my mind strong and I can get out of it."
Next up for the Cubs is a weekend Interleague series at Wrigley Field against the Astros, whom they're very familiar with, having been division mates before Houston switched to the American League this year. The Astros do have an edge: They'll be well rested. Houston played a home day game Thursday, and will arrive in Chicago before the Cubs do.
"We have another series coming up -- let's see what happens," Castro said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.