AP Sports Writer
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Chicago Cubs’ kids roughed up an All-Star reliever who has been close to untouchable.
Rookies Javier Baez and Jorge Soler had two RBIs apiece against Pat Neshek in a go-ahead eighth inning, leading the last-place Cubs to a 7-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night.
“That’s baseball,” Neshek said. “This game’s not for the weak. You can’t beat yourself up too much.”
The 22-year-old Soler homered twice and was 3 for 3 with three RBIs. He homered in his first career at-bat Wednesday and has seven hits in 11 at-bats over his first three games since being recalled from Triple-A Iowa.
“I can’t expect that we’ll expect that every single day,” manager Rick Renteria said. “That would be impossible.”
Soler signed a nine-year contract in 2012 out of Cuba and began the year at Double-A Tennessee.
“I feel so happy,” Soler said through an interpreter. “I don’t know how to explain it. Everything is going so good right now.”
Baez had a tiebreaking two-run double in the eighth. He is batting .192 in 99 at-bats, but has seven homers and 15 RBIs.
“I was just trying to make contact,” Baez said. “I think that’s my greatest at-bat since I came up.”
The Cardinals lost in the return of Yadier Molina. The All-Star catcher, who had been sidelined by a torn ligament in his right thumb, and went 0 for 3 and was hit by a pitch in his first major league game since July 9.
The crowd at Busch Stadium gave Molina a standing ovation when he walked in from the bullpen after pregame warmups, and another cheer before he batted in the first inning.
Neshek (6-1) led NL relievers with a sparkling 0.81 ERA entering the game. It was 2-all when he came in to begin the eighth, and he gave up hits to the first three batters.
“Everybody that’s watched this team all season long realizes that just hasn’t happened,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “He’s been incredible.”
Chicago’s Neil Ramirez (2-1) allowed two hits in a scoreless seventh.
Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks worked six solid innings after a rough beginning in his bid to become the franchise’s first rookie to win five games in August.
“That first inning I wasn’t throwing any pitches with conviction,” Hendricks said. “My stuff wasn’t like it was the rest of the game because I wasn’t throwing it.
“Luckily I was able to roll from there.”
Soler hit his second homer of the season on Shelby Miller’s first pitch of the seventh, tying it at 2. He then hit a two-run shot with two out in the eighth.
Luis Valbuena and Arismendy Alcantara also homered for the Cubs. They entered with 30 homers this month, tied for most in the NL.
Cubs reliever Justin Grimm struck out four in the ninth. One of the batters reached on Grimm’s wild pitch.
Matt Holliday and Jhonny Peralta had RBI singles in the St. Louis first. After Peralta’s hit, Hendricks retired 11 in a row.
Cubs: LHP Felix Doubront (straight right calf) will be activated off the DL on Saturday and make his Cubs debut as the Game 1 starter of a day-night doubleheader. He’s been out since Aug. 1.
Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (shoulder) is set to make a rehab start Sunday and could rejoin the rotation after that. Wacha was the NL championship series MVP last fall as a rookie but has been sidelined since mid-June.
Cubs: Rookie Tsuyoshi Wada (4-1, 2.56 ERA), who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of his last start, works the second game of the doubleheader. Doubront was 2-4 with a 6.07 ERA in Boston.
Cardinals: Justin Masterson (2-2, 7.43 ERA) may be pitching to save his spot in the rotation in Game 1. Rookie Marco Gonzales (0-2, 7.07 ERA) will be recalled from Triple-A Memphis to start in Game 2.
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