CHICAGO -- Jake Westbrook was able to give the Cardinals' taxed bullpen some welcome relief, but he was wasn't able to out-duel Edwin Jackson.
Paced by Anthony Rizzo's three RBIs and a great pitching performance by Jackson, the Cubs won the first of a four-game weekend series at Wrigley Field, 3-0, on Thursday night in front of 35,379 fans, snapping the Cardinals' five-game winning streak.
Westbrook and Jackson both lasted seven innings, but the Cubs' starter had better control. Jackson didn't issue a walk, while Westbrook walked four and put runners at second and third with no outs in the third with a wild pitch. Rizzo then hit a two-run single for his second and third RBIs and a 3-0 Cubs lead.
"I wasn't as sharp as I have been, but I was able to get back in the zone and make some good pitches," Westbrook said. "That third inning was kind of weird. I made a good pitch to Rizzo. I got a ground ball and it just happened to find a hole. I felt like I battled and was able to get deep in the ballgame and give us a chance. The wild pitch was probably the biggest thing, putting them at second and third with nobody out. It was just a tough ballgame."
The loss cost the Cardinals half a game to the Pirates in the National League Central race, with idle Pittsburgh now just a game back in the division. Aside from the loss, however, the Cardinals got more bad news when star outfielder Matt Holliday left in the fourth inning with tightness in his right hamstring, which happened while he was running out a ground ball.
"It kind of grabbed me a little bit, so we'll see how it feels," Holliday said. "I've been icing it and getting treatments, so I think I'll have a little better feel of what it looks like [Friday] and hopefully be able to be day to day and then be able to use the break and it'll be all right."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was ejected for an argument with home-plate umpire Dan Bellino after the final out of the game was caught by Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano to give Kevin Gregg his 16th save. Matheny wasn't arguing the catch. He was upset that Bellino removed his mask to send away Matt Adams after the inning's first out -- after Adams apparently said something to Bellino following a called third strike.
Still trailing 3-0 in the eighth, the Cards got their best chance for a game-tying rally against the Cubs' bullpen. After Jon Jay led off with a single against Blake Parker, Daniel Descalso drew a one-out walk to put the game-tying run at the plate with the top of the order up.
Matt Carpenter drilled a liner to center off reliever James Russell for the inning's second out and that brought up switch-hitting Carlos Beltran. Cubs manager Dale Sveum brought in right-hander Pedro Strop to put Beltran in the left-handed batter's box and the decision paid off.
Strop struck out Beltran swinging on an offspeed pitch after falling behind 2-0 in the count, leaving the 16-year veteran star outfielder hitless in four at-bats in his 2,000th Major League game.
It was the second game in a row Carpenter found himself up in a similar situation, only this time it didn't work out nearly as well as the home run he drilled against Houston on Wednesday at Busch Stadium.
"I couldn't have taken a better swing," Carpenter said. "I just hit it right at the guy and that's the way baseball goes sometimes. Just get 'em next time, I guess."
Chicago took a quick 1-0 lead off Westbrook in the first when Rizzo drove home Starlin Castro with a double to right-center. After Rizzo gave his team the 3-0 lead in the third, the Cubs threatened again in the fourth, getting the first two hitters aboard on a single by Darwin Barney and walk drawn by Welington Castillo. Westbrook retired three straight to put out the fire and then got key double-play ground balls to wipe out runners in the fifth and sixth.
Westbrook scattered seven hits and struck out two in his 101-pitch performance, giving a bullpen in need of a break a relatively easy night.
"He's a guy that does eat up innings for us and keeps us in the game," Matheny said of Westbrook, who had a four-game winning streak against the Cubs snapped. "It's a whole different story if we could put anything together against Jackson, but we just couldn't get it going."
That's because Jackson settled into a groove early and maintained it for all seven innings he pitched. Using a hard, moving fastball and changing speeds, he kept the Cardinals' lineup in check. Jackson allowed just three hits and struck out five, including David Freese in the seventh with Allen Craig on third base to conclude his night.
"Every out was big for me," Jackson said. "I feel every out you can get, when you're playing good teams, is important. They have a tough lineup and we were able to come in and get some big strikeouts and it helped get us out of big inning with men on base. It's imperative with teams like this that you can come out and throw strikes and get out of big situations like that."
Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.