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Houston Astros' Lance McCullers delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning of a baseball game Monday, June 29, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Houston Astros’ Lance McCullers delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning of a baseball game Monday, June 29, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

HOUSTON (AP) — Houston’s young hitters were disciplined Monday night against a veteran pitcher struggling with command, and it propelled the Astros to a win over the top team in the American League.

Chris Carter and Jose Altuve homered to back a solid start by rookie Lance McCullers in a 6-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

In a matchup of teams with the best records in the AL, Houston snapped Kansas City’s four-game winning streak. The Royals are 44-29 and the Astros are 45-34.

McCullers (4-2) allowed four hits and a run with six strikeouts in seven innings in his ninth major league start.

The Astros jumped on Joe Blanton (2-1) for five runs in the first three innings and Carter added a solo home run in the fifth to help them to the win.

“We didn’t swing out of the zone too much, specifically early,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “You always ask your guys to take whatever they give you and he was nibbling on the plate or just off the plate and we just continued to take our base, take our base … we really were opportunistic with whatever we were being given.”

Blanton, who didn’t walk anyone in his first two starts this season, walked four and gave up five runs and five hits in just 2 2-3 innings. It was his first loss since Aug. 20, 2013. He was out of baseball in 2014 and started this season 2-0 with a 1.73 ERA after being called up from Triple-A Omaha.

“I take pride in not walking guys,” Blanton said. “I can’t think of too many games where I walked that many guys. You throw some borderline pitches that don’t go your way. You throw some chase pitches that they don’t swing at. Other than that, trying to fight command issues makes it that kind of day.”

McCullers held the Royals scoreless until a solo homer by Salvador Perez cut the lead to 6-1 in the seventh inning.

He retired nine in a row after a single by Alex Gordon to start the second inning. Rios singled to start the fifth, but McCullers still faced the minimum in that inning after Christian Colon grounded into a double play.

Jarrod Dyson drew a walk to start the sixth but he set down the next three batters to end the inning.

“He had a really good breaking ball. … It had good break on it,” Kansas City’s Lorenzo Cain said. “It definitely kept us off balance all night.”

The Royals were without shortstop Alcides Escobar and first baseman Eric Hosmer, who both sat out with finger injuries.

Luis Valbuena singled with no outs in the second before Blanton walked Jon Singleton and Preston Tucker with one out to load the bases. A third consecutive walk, this one by Domingo Santana, made it 1-0.

Jason Castro’s sacrifice fly pushed the lead to 2-0 before George Springer struck out to end the inning.

Altuve led off the second with a homer to the Crawford Boxes in left field to make it 3-0.

Valbuena singled with one out before Singleton drew a two-out walk. A bloop single by Tucker scored Valbuena and a single by Santana drove in another run to make it 5-0 and chase Blanton.

Santana, who went 0 for 17 with 14 strikeouts in his first stint in the majors last season, is hitting .250 with two doubles and two homers in 11 games this season.

“It’s just trying to go out there and just have fun,” he said. “Last year, I put too much pressure on myself.”

Carter added a solo homer off of Brandon Finnegan in the fifth inning to snap an 0-for-7 slump.

Singleton doubled in the eighth inning for his first hit since being called up from Triple-A Fresno on Friday.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Royals: Escobar was scratched Monday with a bruise on his index finger. … Hosmer was out with a sprained left ring finger and manager Ned Yost said he probably won’t play during this series, which ends on Wednesday. Hosmer was injured on Saturday and left Sunday’s game early with the problem. He had improved on Monday and the swelling in his finger was subsiding.

Astros: OF Colby Rasmus was for the third straight game because of a skin infection on his left arm caused by a bug bite. Hinch said Rasmus received intravenous antibiotics on Monday to try to eliminate the infection. He is day to day. … OF Jake Marisnick, who is on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, is improving and could start a rehabilitation assignment soon. … RHP Scott Feldman (arthroscopic knee surgery) will throw a simulated game in Houston on Tuesday.

UP NEXT

Houston left-hander Dallas Keuchel (9-3) opposes Danny Duffy (2-3) when the series continues on Tuesday. Keuchel, who is second in the AL with a 2.17 ERA, threw his third complete game of the season in his last start, a 4-0 win over the Yankees on Thursday.

Toronto Blue Jays' Josh Donaldson hits a solo home run during fourth-inning baseball game action against the Texas Rangers in Toronto on Sunday, June 28, 2015. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

Toronto Blue Jays’ Josh Donaldson hits a solo home run during fourth-inning baseball game action against the Texas Rangers in Toronto on Sunday, June 28, 2015. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

NEW YORK (AP) — Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson and Seattle designated hitter Nelson Cruz have moved ahead in fan voting for starting spots in the All-Star Game, leaving five Kansas City Royals still in the lead.

Major League Baseball released the results Monday, and voting continues through Thursday night. MLB said more than 500 million votes had been cast.

The starters will be announced Sunday, with the pitchers, reserves and candidates for the final spot to be presented Monday. The game is July 14 in Cincinnati.

Royals outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon, catcher Salvador Perez, shortstop Alcides Escobar and second baseman Omar Infante hold leads.

Infante is about 230,000 votes ahead of the Astros’ Jose Altuve going into Monday night’s series opener at Houston. Infante was hitting .237 with 23 RBIs and one steal while Altuve, last year’s major league batting champion, was at .292 with 30 RBIs and 21 stolen bases.

Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera and Angels outfielder Mike Trout also led in the American League.

Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and DH Kendrys Morales led last week, but were overtaken by Donaldson and Cruz. Donaldson has drawn over 11.7 million votes, already a record for any player in any season.

Donaldson made his All-Star debut in last year’s game in Minneapolis, starting at third base and sharing the left side of the infield with retiring Yankees star Derek Jeter.

“It was a moment I’ll never forget,” Donaldson said.

Finishing as baseball’s leading vote-getter this time around might just rival that memory.

“To be a starter, what that symbolizes is that you’re the best guy at that position,” Donaldson said. “It’s very humbling and it’s an honor.”

The National League leaders are: St. Louis third baseman Matt Carpenter, shortstop Jhonny Peralta and outfielder Matt Holliday, Miami outfielder Giancarlo Stanton and second baseman Dee Gordon, Washington outfielder Bryce Harper, San Francisco catcher Buster Posey and Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

Stanton has a broken hand is out four to six weeks. Nori Aoki of the Giants is fourth in the NL outfield voting, followed by Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen.

Harper is the top vote-getter in the NL with over 11.3 million.

HOUSTON (AP) — Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar has been scratched from the Royals game against the Houston Astros with a finger injury.

Escobar left the game on Sunday after suffering the injury, but was originally in Monday’s lineup. He was scratched about an hour before game time.

He was replaced at shortstop by Christian Colon.

First baseman Eric Hosmer was also out of the lineup with a sprained left ring finger. He was injured on Saturday and left Sunday’s game early with the problem.

Manager Ned Yost isn’t sure when Hosmer will return, but it likely won’t be in this series, which ends Wednesday.

by Jimmy Golden, AP

(Montreal) (AP) – In the city where Jackie Robinson made the jump to the big leagues – and a country where gay marriage has been legal for a decade – Michael Sam has come to restart his football career.

The first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team, Sam returned to practice with the Montreal Alouettes on Monday ready to resume his Canadian Football League career after a brief leave for undisclosed personal reasons.

Speaking for just a few minutes, Sam praised last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage and said he hoped to marry someday. Although Sam’s public coming-out and his efforts to make the NFL have been cited as a catalyst for Americans’ abrupt turnaround on gay rights, he deflected credit to those who have worked on the issue for years.

“I don’t think I did anything. … I’m just happy that I can get married and it would be legal,” he said, adding that he was focusing on football for now. “It was a historical day and I’m very proud and very happy to be an American right now.”

The 2013 Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year at Missouri, Sam was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh and final round of the 2014 NFL draft. He was cut by St. Louis and signed by Dallas to the practice squad, but he couldn’t make the Cowboys’ roster.

Sam agreed to a two-year deal with the Alouettes last month but left training camp on June 12, citing personal reasons. He missed the season opener on Thursday night but returned over the weekend and was back on the practice field at Montreal’s Parc Hebert on Monday.

“The door was open for him to come back,” coach Tom Higgins said, adding that Sam was treated the same as other players. “This was just more high-profile.

“He worked some things out that he needed to settle and he came back to us a much more dedicated athlete than he was before. He wants to prove that he can play on a high level.”

Neither Sam nor his coaches and teammates would comment on the personal matters that took Sam away from the team. Sam said there was never any doubt that he would return.

“I was always coming back,” he said. “I had to deal with personal matters when I was home. That’s all taken care of, so now I’m back.”

Higgins said Sam asked for and received permission to address his teammates on Sunday; the coaches left the room to the players, and Sam spoke for less than a minute. Higgins said applause could be heard through the closed door.

“He told us he’s all-in,” center Luc Brodeur-Jourdain said. “He missed the game for the short period of time he was away.”

Linebacker Kyries Hebert said Sam “got a pretty good welcome,” and predicted that he would have no trouble earning back his teammates’ trust. Higgins said Sam is trying to fit in with the Alouettes, but the attention he gets as a gay rights pioneer makes that difficult.

“He didn’t want to be standing here until he does something,” Higgins said. “Being put in the limelight doesn’t help him with any of his teammates. He hasn’t played one down in the CFL and he gets more attention than any one of his teammates. That bothers him.”

Among the adjustments for Sam are different rules in the CFL, which has a 110-yard field, three downs instead of four and offensive formations with more movement than in the NFL and American colleges.

“He still has to learn how to play the CFL game,” Brodeur-Jourdain said. “All we want to do as teammates is compete against him in practice so we can make him better as a player. Our general manager thinks he has potential. He’s part of the club. Let’s make him better.”

Sam signed autographs and posed for pictures after practice with the handful of fans waiting by the field. Among them was Mike Raimondo, who draped an Alouettes jersey with Sam’s name carefully over his arm.

“I’m new to CFL football. I’m a big hockey fan, but I’m a big Michael Sam fan,” Raimondo said. “When he signed here, I ordered the jersey right away.

“When he left, I had a heart attack.”

by RB Fallstrom, AP

St. Louis Cardinals' Jason Heyward hits an RBI double during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs Sunday, June 28, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

St. Louis Cardinals’ Jason Heyward hits an RBI double during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs Sunday, June 28, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Mike Matheny has zero interest in scanning the daily statistics that show just how efficiently the St. Louis Cardinals are dealing with the opposition.

Matheny prefers that his players ignore all that, too, just as they have the hacking investigation involving the Houston Astros that seems to have quieted down. The players can keep the franchise with the majors’ best record rolling along by grinding out at-bats, grinding out innings, briefly savoring results and moving on.

“I couldn’t say I stuck my head in the sand so much I didn’t know we won 50 games,” Matheny said before the Cardinals raised their record to 51-24. “But it doesn’t really do us any good to focus on that stuff, we’ve just got to go play the game.”

It is best, he added, that contributing kids spend no time fretting about when they might be sent back down to the minors or wondering how they’ll respond to the hard times that might be around the corner.

The manager is not about to throw cold water on rookie Xavier Scruggs, a recent first-time call-up who has nine hits in his last five games and an RBI in each of the last three, helping the Cardinals run their winning streak to six and widen their lead to nine games in the NL Central.

“Oh, this is awesome,” Scruggs said. “It’s everything you dream of, just being part of the best team in baseball. Just being able to able to play a little part is just great for me.”

Some of the reasons behind the Cardinals’ run of success:

STINGY ARMS

The biggest reason, by far, for a start of historic proportions is the pitching minus ace Adam Wainwright, sidelined for the year in April with a torn Achilles tendon. The 2.61 ERA leads the majors by far, and the Pirates are the only other team with an ERA below 3.00.

Over the last five games, the opposition has mustered just six runs, and that’s no isolated stretch. The Cardinals have allowed two or fewer runs an amazing 44 times, going 37-7. Michael Wacha (10-3, 2.77), Carlos Martinez (9-3, 2.80) and Lance Lynn (5-4, 2.84) are all among the ERA league leaders.

The Cardinals had enough confidence in Martinez, in his first year in the rotation, to stick with him after two rain delays in Sunday’s 4-1 victory over the Cubs that completed a three-game sweep. Medical marvel Jaime Garcia, coming off thoracic outlet surgery after years of shoulder trouble, is 3-3 with a 1.69 ERA in seven outings.

STERLING PEN

Closer Trevor Rosenthal has a 0.52 ERA and one blown save in 24 chances. St. Louis leads the league with 30 saves overall with Carlos Villanueva (1.37), Kevin Siegrist (1.52) and Miguel Socolovich (1.69) all under 2.00.

The Cardinals are 29-7 at home, the best ever in the divisional era that began in 1969 according to STATS, and they lead the majors with 22 come-from-behind wins.

JUST ENOUGH

The offense does its part minus Matt Holliday and Matt Adams for long stretches. Scruggs has earned recent time at first base ahead of veteran Mark Reynolds and is not being prepared for the inevitable “rough patch.”

“Mark’s still going to be a big part of what we’re doing here, but Xavier is putting together some at-bats you can’t ignore,” Matheny said. “That’s what a young guy’s supposed to do – you get an opportunity, jump on it.”

Another neophyte, outfielder Greg Garcia, is 5 for 10 with a critical homer.

Holliday is getting closer to returning from a quad injury sustained in early June but feels no pressure to because the team is doing just fine without him.

“They’re obviously playing great, so it’s no hurry,” Holliday said. “They’re finding ways to win and guys are stepping up, and that’s really the way it’s been the last few years.”

INNINGS COUNT

Matheny played for Tony La Russa, whose mantra was winning series. The Cardinals have done that admirably, going 18-5-2.

The manager who’s taken the Cardinals to a World Series and two NL championship series in his first three seasons thinks smaller.

“I just can’t help but keep being drawn to this very simplified idea of one pitch at a time,” Matheny said. “We don’t worry about what our record is, it’s what we can do right now. Play today. That’s it.”

St. Louis Cardinals' Jaime Garcia delivers a pitch during the third inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

St. Louis Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia delivers a pitch during the third inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia is likely to make his next start Thursday against the White Sox, getting two extra days to recover from a groin cramp he sustained running the bases.

St. Louis, which leads the majors with a 50-24 record, has a day off Monday and manager Mike Matheny said he’ll use Lance Lynn and John Lackey on regular rest ahead of Garcia.

Garcia is 3-3 with a 1.69 ERA in seven starts coming off thoracic outlet surgery. He allowed a run in seven innings his last outing Wednesday in Miami, but was injured scoring a run in the eighth.

Outfielder Matt Holliday, on the 15-day disabled list with a right quad strain since June 9, took batting practice for the second straight day Sunday and said he could begin running early this week.

Holliday said he’d attend the All-Star Game if voted in, but wasn’t sure about a target date for his return.

by RB Fallstrom, AP

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Carlos Martinez throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs Sunday, June 28, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Carlos Martinez throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs Sunday, June 28, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Every five or 10 minutes while the game was on hold, Carlos Martinez went to the indoor batting cage to stay loose.

The only concession the St. Louis Cardinals made to a lengthy rain delay was perhaps shortening the right-hander’s outing by one inning.

“Carlos was great, he stayed focused,” manager Mike Matheny said. “He was conscientious about staying in there and keeping his arm ready and it showed. He was ready.”

The 23-year-old Martinez was stingy before and after the break, and the Cardinals hit a season-high six doubles to sweep the Chicago Cubs with a 4-1 victory Sunday night that extended their winning streak to six games.

“He’s just looking untouchable,” said rookie Xavier Scruggs, who had an RBI single for his ninth hit in five games. “He always had the fastball in the minors when I was playing with him, but now he’s got a whole arsenal that’s just disgusting.”

Jason Heyward, Yadier Molina and Matt Carpenter each had run-scoring doubles for St. Louis, which is a major league-best 51-24 with a nine-game cushion in the NL Central. The Cardinals’ 29-7 home record also is tops in the majors and is the second-best start in franchise history, trailing only a 31-4 start by the 1885 Browns according to STATS.

Their home start is the best in the divisional era since 1969, topping the Expos’ 28-7 record in 1979.

The Cubs have lost a season-worst five in a row. They were outscored 14-4 in the series, going 2 for 27 with runners in scoring position, and are just 12-32 the last four seasons in St. Louis.

“We’ve seen Dodger pitching, we’ve seen Cardinal pitching – that’s really good pitching,” manager Joe Maddon said. “And you have a young, inexperienced group offensively, and they’re being schooled right now a little bit.”

Martinez (9-3) allowed one run and two hits in six innings with six strikeouts. The 23-year-old right-hander worked two scoreless innings before a rain delay of 1 hour and 43 minutes, stumbled a bit in the third when Dexter Fowler doubled and eventually scored on Anthony Rizzo’s sacrifice fly, but allowed only a walk after that.

“Even when it’s raining and they stopped the game, I kept the focus,” Martinez said through an interpreter. “I kept ready for when the game started again.”

Martinez and Michael Wacha (10-3) are the first teammates 23 or younger with nine or more wins in the first 75 games since Dwight Gooden and Sid Fernandez had 10 apiece for the Mets in 1986.

Jason Hammel (5-3) struck out seven, but struggled after the rain delay, giving up four runs and six hits in four innings. Hammel worked 7 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dodgers his last time out.

“Honestly, I didn’t feel any different,” Hammel said. “The difference was, I was dotting before and just couldn’t get the ball at the knees after that.

“I think it was either a strikeout or a double tonight.

Trevor Rosenthal earned his 23rd save in 24 chances in a game that was also delayed 46 minutes before the first pitch.

GLOVEWORK

Heyward made an outstanding sliding catch in foul territory down the right-field line on Kris Bryant’s pop-up in the first.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cubs: LHP Tsuyoshi Wada (deltoid) was placed on the 15-day disabled list and RHP Neil Ramirez (shoulder) was activated.

Cardinals: LHP Jaime Garcia is likely to make his next start Thursday against the White Sox, getting two extra days to recover from a groin cramp sustained running the bases. OF Matt Holliday could begin running early this week.

PRIME TIME

The Cardinals are 5-0 on Sunday night.

UP NEXT

Cubs: Kyle Hendricks (2-4, 4.46) faces the Mets on Tuesday in New York. He has worked five innings in each of his last four starts.

Cardinals: Lance Lynn (5-4, 2.84), who faces the White Sox on Tuesday, worked six scoreless innings his first outing off the disabled list from a forearm strain.

by Josh Dubow, AP

Kansas City Royals' Salvador Perez celebrates after hitting a two run home run off Oakland Athletics' Edward Mujica in the eighth inning of a baseball game Sunday, June 28, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Kansas City Royals’ Salvador Perez celebrates after hitting a two run home run off Oakland Athletics’ Edward Mujica in the eighth inning of a baseball game Sunday, June 28, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Jeremy Guthrie and Salvador Perez delivered a milestone win for the Kansas City Royals.

Guthrie struck out a season-high seven batters to top 1,000 for his career and Perez homered for his 500th career hit to help Kansas City complete a three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics with a 5-3 victory on Sunday.

“We had two big milestones today, which I think are big,” manager Ned Yost said. “So they got that behind them and now they just keep moving forward.”

Omar Infante hit a tiebreaking single in a three-run sixth inning for the Royals, who have won five of six to open a nine-game road trip.

Guthrie (6-5) allowed two runs in six innings and reached 1,005 career strikeouts in his 12th big league season.

“It’s 1,000 more than I thought I’d probably ever thought I’d have,” he said. “It’s a great accomplishment to be able to get there and have the endurance to get to that number.”

Perez took much less time to reach his big number, getting there in his fifth season with a homer in the eighth inning off Edward Mujica that provided insurance for the Royals.

“It means a lot,” he said. “It’s pretty special to me.”

The Royals bullpen did the rest with Wade Davis pitching the ninth for his ninth save in as many chances as Kansas City swept the A’s for the first time since 2008.

Jesse Chavez (4-7) was hurt by an error by third baseman Max Muncy in Kansas City’s three-run sixth inning as Oakland lost its third straight following a season-long five-game winning streak.

“We were playing really good ball lately and this happens,” Muncy said. “It’s really frustrating that we had good momentum going as a team and we were playing really good ball.”

Billy Burns helped spark a two-run third inning for Oakland when he led off with a single to extend his hitting streak to 16 straight games.

Ben Zobrist drove in the first run with a sacrifice fly and Josh Reddick made it 2-0 when his popup to shallow left fell between shortstop Alcides Escobar and left fielder Alex Gordon for his 500th career hit.

A poor defensive play by Oakland helped the Royals take the lead in the sixth. With runners on first and third and one out, Perez hit a slow grounder to third base. Muncy charged and his throw home was high. Mike Moustakas scored on the fielder’s choice and the runners advanced to second and third on Muncy’s throwing error.

Alex Rios tied the game with a sacrifice fly and Infante gave the Royals their first lead with his two-out hit that knocked out Chavez.

“I got to stop the bleeding and make a pitch,” Chavez said. “It didn’t go our way. I made a pitch to the next hitter for what would have been the third out. I’ve still got to stop the bleeding there. There’s no excuse for it. It’s all my fault.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Royals: OF Lorenzo Cain did not start after tweaking his hamstring stealing a base Saturday. He pinch hit for Eric Hosmer in the eighth and singled. Hosmer, who was moved to DH from first base, sprained his left ring finger on that same double steal Saturday and left Sunday’s game early. He is day to day. … Escobar was also removed in the eighth inning for precautionary reasons with a split nail on his right index finger, but Yost said he thought Escobar would be able to play Monday.

Athletics: Burns (hip flexor) returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games.

STREAKING

Burns had two hits and is one game away from tying the Oakland rookie hitting streak record of 17 games shared by Mike Edwards (1978), Luis Polonia (1987) and Terrence Long (2000).

UP NEXT

Royals: Joe Blanton (2-0) takes the mound at Houston in the opener of a three-game series between first-place teams. Lance McCullers (3-2) pitches for the Astros.

Athletics: Kendall Graveman, who is 3-2 with a 2.31 ERA in seven starts since being recalled from the minors, starts the opener of a three-game series against Colorado.

by Steve Overbey, AP

Chicago Cubs' Starlin Castro, right, is congratulated by teammate Dexter Fowler after scoring on a single by Donn Roach during the second inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, June 27, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Chicago Cubs’ Starlin Castro, right, is congratulated by teammate Dexter Fowler after scoring on a single by Donn Roach during the second inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, June 27, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Chicago Cubs had several chances against St. Louis on Saturday night. It just didn’t work out.

It’s a familiar theme for their games against the Cardinals this year.

Starlin Castro and Chris Coghlan had two hits apiece, but Chicago lost 8-1 to Michael Wacha and St. Louis. The Cubs have dropped six of eight against the Cardinals this year, leaving 61 runners on base against the NL Central leaders.

“No question, we had opportunities,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We did a lot of good things early. We just have to do better. It’s very simple.”

The Cubs have lost four in a row after a four-game winning streak. They have scored just six runs in their last five games.

“We try to score 10 runs in one at-bat and that’s not going to happen,” Castro said. “Keep grinding it out, every opportunity they give to us.”

Cubs right-hander Donn Roach (0-1) lasted just 3 1/3 innings in his first major league appearance of the year. He was charged with four runs and eight hits while subbing for Tsuyoshi Wada, who has a sore elbow.

Jason Heyward reached four times in St. Louis’ fifth straight victory. The major league-best Cardinals (50-24) have five winning streaks of five games or more this season.

“We’re not completely oblivious to it, but we’re not spending a lot of time on it,” manager Mike Matheny said of the team’s record. “It’s nice watching the bulk of these guys have success.”

Wacha (10-3) allowed one run and six hits, bouncing back from a rough start at Philadelphia. The right-hander was tagged for five runs and eight hits against the Phillies in his worst start of the season last Sunday.

St. Louis improved to a major league-best 28-7 at home with its eighth consecutive win at Busch Stadium.

Xavier Scruggs, Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter each drove in two runs as St. Louis reached the 50-win mark before July for the first time in franchise history. Scruggs, who was promoted from Triple-A Memphis on June 19, gave the Cardinals the lead for good with a run-scoring single in the fourth.

In Friday’s series opener, rookie Greg Garcia, also recalled from Memphis on June 19, connected for a tying pinch-hit homer in the eighth, and the Cardinals went on to a 3-2 victory in 10 innings.

“Greg, he’s my man and it was great to see him contribute like that,” Scruggs said. “Tonight, I just wanted to get out there and do something, too.”

Roach drove in Castro with an RBI single in the second.

Roach, who was 7-1 at Triple-A Iowa, set the Cardinals down in order in the third, but struggled in St. Louis’ four-run fourth. The Cardinals added four more in the fifth.

“I think they did a good job of staying up the middle,” Roach said. “I was looking for ground balls and they hit some up the middle and no one’s there. I obviously threw some mistakes today, but I didn’t think it was that bad.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cubs: OF Jorge Soler, who has been out since June 3 with a left ankle sprain, will likely start a minor league rehabilitation assignment early next week. Soler is on the 15-day disabled list.

Cardinals: LHP Jaime Garcia, who suffered a groin cramp running the bases in his last start, will not take his scheduled turn on Tuesday. He skipped a bullpen session Saturday and could return to the rotation as early as Wednesday. RHP Lance Lynn (5-4, 2.84 ERA) will start Tuesday.

UP NEXT

Cardinals RHP Carlos Martinez (8-3, 2.89 ERA) faces RHP Jason Hammel (5-2, 2.65 ERA) in the finale of the three-game series on Sunday night. Hammel has eight quality starts in his last 11 outings. The Cardinals are 11-3 in games started by Martinez this season.

by Michael Wagaman, AP

Kansas City Royals pitcher Chris Young works against the Oakland Athletics in the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Kansas City Royals pitcher Chris Young works against the Oakland Athletics in the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — With his team nearing its 43rd win of the season to tie Houston for the most in the AL, Kansas City manager Ned Yost finally relaxed and allowed himself to enjoy the moment.

The Royals are rolling again and the normally stoic Yost broke character to take it in.

Chris Young bounced back from his worst start of the year to pitch six innings and Kansas City beat the Oakland Athletics 3-2 Saturday to move a season-high 15 games over .500.

“I was sitting there thinking about that in the ninth inning, this would be a chance to get our high-water mark to 15 over,” Yost said following the Royals’ third consecutive win. “If I would say I’m not excited about being 15 over, I’d be lying. It’s great, but we want to continue to keep going, keep going, keep going.”

Kendrys Morales hit a two-run single in the sixth off Scott Kazmir (4-5) that erased a 2-1 deficit. The Royals won for the fourth time in five games on their road trip.

Young (7-3) allowed four hits and two runs. He walked one and struck out four.

That was in stark contrast to Young’s previous start against Boston when he was tagged for seven runs in 4 2/3 innings.

“He did a great job of changing eye level,” Yost said. “He’d get them looking up then pitch down. He’d get them looking down, then he’d pitch up. He moved the ball in and he’d move the ball out. He just did a great job of executing pitches.”

Ryan Madson and Wade Davis pitched one inning apiece, and Greg Holland worked the ninth for his 16th save.

Sam Fuld doubled for the A’s, who were wearing throwback uniforms from 1965 when the franchise was in Kansas City. Oakland has lost two straight after a season-high, five-game winning streak.

Oakland had two on with no outs in the eighth but failed to score. Stephen Vogt struck out looking against Davis after getting ahead in the count 3-0, and Ben Zobrist hit into a 1-6-3 double play.

“Once they get to the seventh, they feel like they have a good chance with the lead,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of the Royals. “We had an opportunity. We just didn’t get a big hit there.”

For the second consecutive game these two bitter rivals played without incident. When they played in Kansas City in April, all three games were marred by bench-clearing dustups.

The Royals trailed 2-1 in the sixth before stringing together a walk and two hits. Lorenzo Cain and Hosmer also pulled off a double steal before Morales singled.

Young, who made a throwing error that led to Oakland’s first run, won for the third time in four starts.

Fuld doubled leading off the first, alertly stole third against the Royals shifted defense and scored when Young’s throw to third sailed wildly into foul territory.

Omar Infante doubled in the third, moved up on a balk by Kazmir and scored on a sacrifice fly by Moustakas.

A two-out throwing error by shortstop Alcides Escobar in the fifth led to an unearned run for the A’s in the fifth.

Kazmir owned the lowest home ERA in the majors going into the game, but gave up three runs and seven hits in seven innings.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Royals: RHP Yordano Ventura allowed three runs in four innings during his first rehab start for Triple-A Omaha. He has been out since June 13 with ulnar neuritis.

Athletics: OF Billy Burns (hip flexor) rested for a second straight day, but should be available for the series finale. … Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte (strained right shoulder) played catch with his right arm before the game and reported no pain. … Stephen Vogt was Oakland’s DH a day after getting hit in the right wrist by a pitch from Franklin Morales.

UP NEXT

Royals: RHP Jeremy Guthrie (5-5) needs two strikeouts to reach 1,000 for his career. Teammate Edinson Volquez reached the milestone Friday.

Athletics: RHP Jesse Chavez (4-6) seeks his third consecutive win. He has never won more than two in a row.