Then the Chicago Cubs' offense kicked in.
"It looked early like Wainwright was going to be really tough, so I felt there was going to be very little room for error," Lilly said. "But our lineup is tough. One of the things about pitching in this division for me is I don't have to face the Cubs."
Alfonso Soriano lacked only a home run for the cycle for the Cubs, who have won nine of 12 and pulled within two games of NL Central-leading Milwaukee, which lost 7-3 at Cincinnati. Chicago's 31-15 record since June 3 is the best in the major leagues in that span.
"I saw they lost again," Soriano said of the Brewers, "so it's a very important win for us."
Juan Encarnacion had four singles and an RBI for the Cardinals, who have lost the first two games of a seven-game homestand against the two teams they're chasing in the NL Central. The defending World Series champions, who have been bedeviled by injuries, are 45-52 and nine games out of first place.
Manager Tony La Russa pointed out the Cardinals lost their first two games after the All-Star break, yet finished their first trip 5-5.
"We've been in this position, it seems like, most of the season," La Russa said. "We've just lost the first two games of the series. We'll play as hard as we can and as good as we can."
Lilly (11-4) worked seven innings and gave up a run and six hits with two strikeouts and three walks. He topped his previous career best of six straight victories in 2003. He has been dominant in July, going 5-0 with a 1.83 ERA in five starts, and is 7-0 with a 2.77 ERA in eight starts dating to June 15.
He added a run-scoring single off Troy Percival, his fourth hit of the season, in the eighth. The Cubs scored five runs with two-out hits, a night after scoring all four runs with two outs.
"When you get two-out hitting, it's a little bit of a demoralizer," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "We've been doing a good job at it, at least in this series."
Wainwright (9-8) allowed six runs and nine hits in five innings. He had one more strikeout the last two innings, tying his career best in his first year as a starter.
"I felt great," Wainwright said. "There's no excuse for what happened to me. This team needed a big start from me and I didn't give them one."
Floyd and Jacque Jones had two-out RBI singles in the fourth to put the Cubs ahead 2-0.
The Cardinals shaved the deficit to one in the bottom of the inning when So Taguchi drew a leadoff walk, stole second on a pickoff play, went to third on Lilly's wild throw and scored on Encarnacion's hit.
Then the Cubs put it away with a four-run fourth that featured a triple by Soriano and doubles by Aramis Ramirez and Floyd. Ryan Theriot had an RBI single, Floyd's double drove in two runs and Fontenot's single made it 6-1.
Wainwright, who had won his previous three starts, has struggled in three starts against Chicago. He's 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA, allowing 23 earned runs in 23 innings.
- Piniella won his 1,572nd game, breaking a tie with Dick Williams for 17th place on the career list. La Russa is third with 2,342. "I've been doing this a long time and sooner or later I'll pass some of these guys," Piniella said. "Dick's a pretty good manager, a real good manager in fact, probably should be in the Hall of Fame."
- Jones is batting .361 (13-for-36) with eight RBI in 11 games since the All-Star break. He's 11-for-20 (.550) with eight RBI against St. Louis this year.
- Albert Pujols of the Cardinals was 0-for-4 to drop to 0-for-9 the first two games of the series.