ST. LOUIS — With a small sample size from which to choose, Chris Rusin can easily pick his best performances. His latest ranks toward the top.
Rusin, a former University of Kentucky standout, pitched around seven hits in six innings, Anthony Rizzo had a two-run single and the Chicago Cubs recorded their first shutout in St. Louis in 16 years with a 3-0 victory over the Cardinals on Friday night.
"It's up there," Rusin said of his 12th career start in the majors. "I'd say it's behind the Giants because I went one more inning scoreless. But other than that, those two games are tied. I'm just trying to keep doing what I'm doing."
He went seven innings and gave up three hits but didn't get a decision in the Cubs' 1-0 victory at San Francisco on July 27.
Rusin (2-1) worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the second inning and only set the Cardinals down in order in the first. He struck out a season-high five and issued two intentional walks. His ERA through five starts this season improved to 3.08.
"He's pitching really, really well," Manager Dale Sveum said. "The thing with him is when he throws strikes. The ball can move so much, that he get some swings and misses on some balls that are quite a ways out of the zone. He did a great job again."
Kevin Gregg recorded his 24th save to complete the Cubs' first shutout in St. Louis since Jeremi Gonzalez tossed one on June 23, 1997.
Lance Lynn (13-6), attempting to become the National League's first 14-game winner, labored over 6 2-3 innings despite giving up just three hits. He threw 115 pitches and was charged with all three runs. He struck out five, walked five and hit two.
"That was a tough one. I felt good, I was just missing," Lynn said. "It's one of those things, they got me in some deep counts and they worked some walks and they weren't chasing some stuff."
Chicago has won two of three, but only has three wins in its past 12.
St. Louis has lost four of five and 12 of 16. The Cardinals have been shut out four times during that span and have scored three or fewer runs 10 times, despite getting 13 runs in two victories and 15 runs in a third.
Lynn's night ended after he plunked Cole Gillespie to load the bases in the seventh with two outs. Left-hander Randy Choate came in to face the left-handed Rizzo, who singled to center on a two-strike pitch to score Darwin Barney and Junior Lake and make it 3-0.
Rizzo has struggled this season overall with a .238 batting average, including just .197 against lefties. He's even lower (.181) with runners in scoring position.
"It was nice, especially against Randy Choate, who's tough on lefties," Rizzo said. "You just try to see the ball as long as possible off of him and hit it where they're not."
The Cubs opened the scoring on Lake's two-out single that scored Welington Castillo, who walked to open the seventh.
It could have been more. Starlin Castro was originally called safe by first base umpire Larry Vanover on a bunt that Lynn fielded and applied the tag. After a short argument from Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, the umpire crew gathered and reversed the call for the first out of the inning.
Rusin twice intentionally walked Pete Kozma to face Lynn. Lynn struck out in the second with the bases loaded and ended the fourth with a grounder with two men on.
Hitting in the seventh spot of the lineup, Jon Jay had three of the Cardinals' seven hits with two doubles.
"I was able to get ahead of the hitters this time with first-pitch strikes and that's what helped me out," said Rusin, who threw first-pitch strikes to 13 of the 26 batters he faced. "And I didn't get beat by the heart of the lineup. I limited them to a couple of singles and no home runs."
Rusin was lifted for pinch-hitter Logan Watkins with runners at first and second with one out in the seventh. Watkins struck out.
Both managers tinkered with their lineups to try and boost their struggling teams.
The Cubs used David DeJesus in the cleanup position for the first time in his career. DeJesus struck out to end the seventh with runners at first and third and finished 0-for-3, a walk and a hit-by-pitch.
The Cardinals moved David Freese to second in the order for the first time this season. He had a single in four at-bats.
St. Louis went hitless in four at-bats with runners in scoring position.
"Very few chances," Matheny said. "A good start by Lance and he gave us a bit of a chance, but we had a few but and couldn't come through."