(Tom Gannam ~ Associated Press)
ST. LOUIS -- Jeff Samardzija pitched shutout ball in his first major league start this season and drove in a run to lead the Chicago Cubs past the St. Louis Cardinals 5-1 on Monday night.
The Cardinals fell seven games behind first-place Cincinnati in the NL Central. The Reds beat Arizona 7-2 and reduced their magic number to 13 for clinching the division title.
Samardzija (1-1) filled in admirably for Carlos Silva, scratched due to pain in his pitching elbow. In his first big league appearance since April 19, the former Notre Dame football star allowed six hits in 5 2/3 innings. He walked four and struck out one.
Geovany Soto went 3 for 3 with an RBI single and reached base all four times up. Alfonso Soriano drove in two runs and Kosuke Fukudome had an RBI single for the Cubs.
Matt Holliday drove in the Cardinals' run with a two-out RBI single in the seventh off reliever Andrew Cashner.
The Cubs did most of their damage against rookie starter Jaime Garcia (13-8), who dropped his second consecutive decision. Garcia lasted six innings and allowed four runs (two earned) on seven hits and a walk while striking out four.
Samardzija helped himself in the second when the Cubs jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Aramis Ramirez led off with a double and went to third on Xavier Nady's infield single. Soto hit an RBI single and, two outs later, Samardzija singled to right in his first at-bat of the season to score Nady.
In the next inning, the Cubs scored two unearned runs with the help of an error by second baseman Skip Schumaker, who couldn't handle a throw from shortstop Brendan Ryan. Chicago loaded the bases with two outs and Soriano drove in two runs with a single to left.
Fukudome added a run-scoring single in the eighth.
* Cardinals third baseman Pedro Feliz grounded into double plays his first two times up and has just four hits in his last 46 at-bats.
* Ryan went 1 for 3, ending a streak of four straight multihit games.
* The Cardinals are 16-24 against the Cubs, Astros and Brewers. Those three NL Central teams are a combined 35 games under .500.