CHICAGO -- The Cubs saw firsthand why the Cardinals are the best team in baseball at the All-Star break.
St. Louis pounded a season-high 21 hits off the Cubs, including a go-ahead RBI single by Allen Craig with one out in the ninth and a three-run homer by Yadier Molina that inning, to post a 10-6 come-from-behind victory Sunday night and split the series.
"That's a great team over there, from top to bottom, even with [Matt] Holliday out," Chicago starter and All-Star Travis Wood said. "They've got guys stepping in and filling the spots and doing an outstanding job. You've got to bring your 'A' game every time you face them."
Wood did just that, holding the Cardinals to three runs over 5 2/3 innings, and falling one out shy of becoming the first Cubs pitcher ever to record 18 quality starts before the All-Star break. His 17 quality starts lead the Majors, and he's the fourth Cubs pitcher in franchise history to have that many at the break, joining Bill Hands (1969), Fergie Jenkins ('69) and Greg Maddux ('88).
"When a guy has done what Travis has done, that's our horse, and that's our most consistent guy," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
Wood reached 100 pitches when he walked Craig with one on and two outs in the fifth. Pedro Strop took over, and needed just one pitch to end the inning, getting David Freese to ground out.
"It was just time," Sveum said about his decision to pull Wood.
The Cubs needed nearly every pitcher as they tried to keep the Cardinals in check.
Chicago trailed, 3-1, in the sixth against All-Star Adam Wainwright when Dioner Navarro and Brian Bogusevic hit back-to-back singles. One out later, Darwin Barney, who hit a RBI single in the second, launched the first pitch into the basket rimming the left-field bleachers for his sixth home run. According to ESPN, the ball traveled 366 feet and would not have gone out of any other Major League ballpark.
"Barney's home run was huge at a huge time," Sveum said. "We had the bullpen set up. You've got to give their hitters a lot of credit. That's why they're the best hitting team in baseball. But [Pete] Kozma hits one off his thumbs that bloops in and took the momentum away from us."
That was part of the Cardinals' seventh-inning rally against Matt Guerrier. Molina doubled and scored one out later on Kozma's single that dropped over shortstop Starlin Castro. One out later, pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso singled to chase Guerrier, and Matt Carpenter greeted James Russell with a go-ahead RBI single.
Matt Adams added a RBI double in the eighth, driving in David Freese from second to give the Cards a 6-4 lead. Anthony Rizzo cut off Castro's relay throw home, preventing a possible play at the plate.
"I don't know why he was there," Sveum said of Rizzo. "That's not really protocol in our playbook."
Rizzo said he usually looks behind him to see where the catcher is, but didn't this time.
"It would've been a close play," Rizzo said.
"That didn't lose the game for us," Barney said. "They swung the bats a little better than we did. You can't take anything away from them or say we did anything wrong. They had more good swings than we did in the end."
The Cubs did rally again with one out in the eighth, as pinch-hitter Cole Gillespie singled in his debut, and one out later, his former Oregon State teammate, Barney, singled, to set up pinch-hitter Cody Ransom's two-run double off Edward Mujica, named to the All-Star Game late Sunday.
With the game tied at 6 and one out in the St. Louis ninth against Kevin Gregg, Carlos Beltran doubled to right and reached third on an error charged to Dave Sappelt, who lost his footing. Beltran tallied on Craig's single and Freese then singled to set up Molina's home run, his seventh.
"Yadi is unbelievable," Barney said. "Sometimes you just don't know how to get the guy out. ... It's tough -- once we got a little momentum, he's just a dagger every time. Hats off to him."
"We've got a good offense, we've got a good team," Molina said. "We're never going to give up. ... Whatever happens in the game or in the inning before, we're going to come after you."
The Cardinals went 8-for-16 with runners in scoring position, and were batting .334 with RISP for the season, tops in the Major Leagues.
"That's what separates them as the best hitting team in baseball is .340 with men in scoring position," Sveum said. "You're so far ahead of the second-place team, it makes your head spin."
Wood did what he could. The lefty has developed his offspeed pitches, has better fastball command and simply has a better idea of what he wants to do on the mound this season. It's been quite a first half for Wood, who opened last year at Triple-A Iowa and wasn't sure he was going to make the rotation this season. Now, he's an All-Star.
"He's a stubborn little kid," Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija said of Wood, who failed to post a quality start for the second time this season. "He knows what works for him, and he sticks with it. That's a lot to be said for somebody in this sport. You realize what works for you and you stick with it."
This will be Wood's first trip to the All-Star Game, and he hopes to get a chance to pitch. Tuesday is his side day.
"He pretty much goes 95 to almost 100 percent when he throws his 45 pitches on the side," Sveum said. "We let them know he's available and could pitch an inning."
Wood has an early-morning flight Monday to New York. He's bringing his wife, 2 1/2-year-old son, parents and some friends to New York for the festivities.
"I'm going into it expecting to [pitch]," Wood said. "If not, I won't be disappointed or anything. I'll understand. We'll see what happens."
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.