CHICAGO – Mark Mulder (16-7) allowed eight hits and a run in seven innings and helped himself with a squeeze bunt and single off Greg Maddux to get his first win since Aug. 22 as St. Louis beat the Cubs 5-1.

With two starts left – and a very outside chance of a third on short rest – Maddux (12-13) has all but lost his remarkable streak of 15-win seasons. He’d won at least 15 games for a major league-record 17 straight seasons, a stretch that started in 1988 in the third year of his first stint with the Cubs. The 39-year-old right-hander, who has 317 career wins, hasn’t had a losing record since going 6-14 in 1987.

Maddux went 6 1-3 innings, giving up 10 hits and five runs.

The Cardinals manufactured runs in the first and second innings. David Eckstein led off with a single and on a hit-and-run reached second as Jim Edmonds hit back to Maddux. Larry Walker’s two-out single made it 1-0.

Mark Grudzielanek walked in the second and after Abraham Nunez forced him at second, Einar Diaz dropped a single to right to put runners at first and third. With Nunez breaking for the plate, Mulder dropped down a perfect squeeze bunt for a 2-0 lead.

Edmonds’ fly to center hit the top of the ivy and bounced off for a third-inning double as Cubs center fielder Corey Patterson looked up and apparently thought it was a homer. Edmonds then made third on a grounder and scored on Walker’s second RBI single.

Jeromy Burnitz hit his 23rd homer in the sixth to end Mulder’s shutout bid. But Mulder beat out an infield hit and scored all the way from first on Eckstein’s double off the left-field wall for a 4-1 lead in the seventh. Edmonds followed with another RBI double to finish Maddux and give the Cardinals a four-run cushion.

Poor baserunning hurt a Cubs’ scoring threat in the second inning after singles by Burnitz and Matt Murton and a sacrifice put runners at second and third with one out.

When Henry Blanco hit a grounder to shortstop Eckstein, Murton unwisely broke for third and that gave Burnitz – who had held up – no choice other than to run home, where he was tagged out easily after Eckstein threw to Diaz.

Notes: Cubs OF Jerry Hairston has a deep bone contusion after fouling a ball off his left knee Friday. Trainer Mark O’Neal said he’s not sure when Hairston can play again but added he doesn’t expect him to miss all of the final two weeks. … Albert Pujols, trying to catch Chicago’s Derrek Lee for the batting title and trailing by five points entering the game, went 1-for-4. Lee was 1-for-3 and hit a hard smash to short in the fifth and was thrown out on a great play by the 5-foot-7 Eckstein, who snagged the high hop and saved a run.

AP-ES-09-17-05 1633EDT


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