CHICAGO (AP) By the time Kris Bryant's drive sailed over the wall in center field, that tough start for the Chicago Cubs was long gone.
Brushed away by one dazzling stretch.
Bryant hit his fourth career grand slam in Chicago's six-run eighth inning, and the Cubs pounded the St. Louis Cardinals 13-5 on Sunday night for their season-high seventh consecutive victory.
Willson Contreras, Anthony Rizzo and David Bote each drove in two runs, helping the Cubs leapfrog the Cardinals for first place in the NL Central. Ben Zobrist had two hits and made two nice plays in left field as Chicago completed its first three-game sweep of St. Louis since September 2017.
Since opening the season with eight losses in 11 games, the Cubs have been on a roll. They have won 16 of 20 for the first time since they went 16-4 in August 2016.
''We've really turned it around since then,'' Bryant said. ''Our pitchers have been great. Our at-bats have been great. Defense, everything has really been clicking for us. This is the type of baseball that's super fun to be a part of.''
The crowd of 36,499 chanted ''Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!'' after Bryant connected with two outs in the eighth, belting a drive to center off Dominic Leone for his fourth homer.
Paul DeJong and Marcell Ozuna went deep in the ninth for St. Louis, which lost its season-high fourth straight game. Adam Wainwright (3-3) pitched five-plus innings while dropping to 11-4 in 26 career games at Wrigley Field.
''You have to tip your hat to their hitters for beating me to the spot on a couple of those pitches,'' Wainwright said. ''They're playing good ball right now.''
The Cardinals got at least one hit in seven innings, but left nine runners on base. Jose Quintana (4-1) also received some help from his defense.
Contreras threw out Paul Goldschmidt attempting to steal second in the first. The versatile Zobrist cut down Matt Carpenter trying to go from first to third on Goldschmidt's one-out single in the third, then made a diving grab to rob Yadier Molina of a hit with a runner on first in the fourth.
''He's a good outfielder,'' Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. ''He's been a good outfielder for a long time.''
Contreras' ninth homer helped Chicago build a 3-0 lead. St. Louis pulled within one on Molina's two-run double in the sixth, but Kolten Wong left runners on the corners when he bounced out on Quintana's 103rd and final pitch.
The Cubs poured it on with 10 runs in their last three at-bats. Rizzo doubled in two runs and Contreras added an RBI single in the sixth. Zobrist singled home Albert Almora Jr. in the seventh, and Bote and Almora each doubled in a run before Bryant went deep in the eighth.
''They swept it this time. When it comes around, we're going to try to do the same thing to them,'' Wainwright said. ''It's a good series for them. It's an unfortunate series for us. But I really, really, really like where this team's headed.''
Cardinals reliever Luke Gregerson got two outs in his first major league appearance since July 25, 2018, at Cincinnati. He missed the start of this season with a right shoulder impingement.
Cardinals: RHP Carlos Martinez (shoulder) pitched a perfect inning in his first rehab appearance with Class A Peoria. Martinez is expected to work out of the bullpen when he returns to the majors.
Cubs: 2B Daniel Descalso (sore left ankle) rested after he got hurt during Saturday's 6-5 win. He is day to day. ... C Victor Caratini took batting practice on the field for the first time since he had surgery last month to repair a broken bone in his left hand. ... LHP Xavier Cedeno (left wrist inflammation) got one out and allowed two hits in a rehab appearance with Triple-A Iowa. He is expected to pitch for Iowa again on Monday.
Cardinals: RHP Miles Mikolas (3-2, 4.73 ERA) gets the ball when St. Louis opens a seven-game homestand with the first of three against Philadelphia on Monday night. Mikolas pitched six crisp innings in a 5-1 win at Washington on Wednesday night. RHP Vince Velasquez (1-1, 2.73 ERA) starts for the Phillies.
Cubs: LHP Cole Hamels (3-0, 3.19 ERA) pitches Monday night in the opener of a four-game series against Miami. Hamels is coming off consecutive no-decisions against the Dodgers and Mariners, issuing nine walks in 10 2/3 innings. RHP Sandy Alcantara (1-3, 4.86) starts for the last-place Marlins.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Copyright 2019 by AP. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of AP is strictly prohibited.