Joe Maddon had no trouble keeping his cool after the Chicago Cubs' fifth loss in six games.
"It's just the beginning of May. We've just celebrated Cinco de Mayo, and that's an indicator of what's going on with your team," the manager said after the Cubs fell 5-1 to the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday. "I'm pretty happy, and I wasn't drinking. It had nothing to do with Coronas with limes."
John Lackey drove in a run for the third time in his big league career and struck out 10 in 7 2-3 innings for St. Louis.
Jason Heyward singled three times with an RBI, and Peter Bourjos hit a run-scoring triple for the NL Central leaders, who took three of four from the second-place Cubs and improved their record to a major league-best 21-7.
"The gap is repetition and experience," Maddon said. "I'm very satisfied with the athletic ability. They out-competed us in a sense, experience-wise, and that's it. We will make that up."
Jake Arrieta (3-3) gave up five runs — four earned — and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings. Starlin Castro drove in a run. The earned runs allowed matched his season worst from the last time out, when the right-hander lasted five innings in a loss to Milwaukee.
"Back to back starts now where I've not been very good," Arrieta said. "I've got some work to do. I need to clean some things up and just come out next time with a little better start. I need to set the tone better."
Arrieta entered 3-0 with a 0.74 ERA against St. Louis and Maddon noted the pitcher hadn't been "scalded."
"My biggest thing was the pitch counts got away from me," Arrieta said. "The big blow was the Lackey double that he hit down the line. Other than that, I was OK at best."
Lackey had been 6 for 67 at the plate in 13 major league seasons before a two-out, opposite-field RBI double to right in the fourth. Bourjos, who had been on first base, scored for a 4-0 lead on an error by Jorge Soler who, with his back to the plate, missed the ball as he tried to glove it between his legs near the foul line.
The double was the third extra-base hit for the 36-year-old Lackey, who has played most of his entire career in the American League.
Lackey (2-1) allowed one run and five hits, reaching double digits for the 18th time. After the Cubs put two on against in the ninth, Trevor Rosenthal relieved and got three straight outs — two on strikeouts — for his 10th save in 11 chances.
St. Louis built on a 2-0 lead in the second when Heyward hit an RBI single and scored on Bourjos' triple.
Kris Bryant fanned three times and Matt Szczur twice for the Cubs, who struck out 12 times and raised their total to 263, passing Houston for the major league lead.
"I have zero concerns," Maddon said. "The hitters will start figuring some of this stuff out as they get more AB's.
"I could not be happier with them as a group."
St. Louis' Matt Carpenter 1 for 12 in the series with a three-run homer on Tuesday, was given a day off, as was Matt Holliday, who was 6 for 12 in the series.