CHICAGO -- Now it's time for the Cubs to quit playing spoiler and focus on achieving their own goal.
The Cubs likely played their last meaningful game of the season, in terms of impact on the standings, in a 6-3 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field.
St. Louis saw its lead for the second National League Wild Card spot remain the same, while the Cubs' magic number to avoid losing 100 games also stayed steady at four.
Chicago has nine games left, the next six of which come in Colorado and Arizona. The Rockies are eliminated, while the D-backs remain alive in the Wild Card race. Cubs manager Dale Sveum hopes the way the Cubs competed against the contending Cardinals -- an extra-inning win Friday and an extra-inning loss Saturday before Sunday's three-run defeat -- continues on the road.
"Hopefully these guys come out and understand you don't want to be a part of that," Sveum said of losing 100. "We played these guys pretty much toe-to-toe for three days, so that was nice to see. Fought them and gave them the best we had. Hopefully we go on the road and do the same."
The Cubs were within one heading into the eighth inning, but St. Louis tacked on two runs on a sacrifice fly by Pete Kozma -- who hit his first career homer in the sixth -- and an RBI single by Carlos Beltran. Cubs reliever Alberto Cabrera issued two free passes in the inning, including a leadoff walk to David Freese.
"That's kind of been the tale of our season a little bit -- getting it close and just not being able to put a game away," Sveum said. "Can't walk anybody. [Saturday] you walk eight guys and today the big inning bled because of walks. These young guys have to get on the mound and throw strikes."
Chicago couldn't get much going against Cardinals right-hander Kyle Lohse and the St. Louis bullpen, which tossed three scoreless innings to preserve Lohse's 16th win.
A two-run fourth -- in which Welington Castillo knocked an RBI double and scored on a wild pitch -- and a solo homer by Alfonso Soriano in the sixth accounted for Chicago's scoring. Lohse allowed only two other baserunners to get into scoring position as he held the Cubs to five hits and struck out five in six innings.
"I made a couple of mistakes there in the inning where they scored the two runs. Other than that, it was a pretty solid outing," Lohse said."I feel like I could have executed a better pitch to Soriano, obviously."
The homer, Soriano's 31st, also was the left fielder's 105th RBI, a new career high. Soriano's 105 RBIs are the most by a Cub since Derrek Lee's 111 in 2009 and the highest by a Cub age 36 or older since Moises Alou's 106 in 2005.
"He's done one heck of a job in left field, at the plate and everything about this season's been one of his best," Sveum said.
Soriano said he isn't surprised by his RBI total because he's spent much of his career hitting leadoff or in other non-run-producing roles.
"Now my game has changed. I don't have the speed, but now I'm more of a power hitter," Soriano said. "I think that's why I've had so many RBIs, is just because I've been batting cleanup."
Like Lohse, Cubs starter Justin Germano only ran into only one big inning, with his coming in the third on a two-run double by Allen Craig, who scored on a single by Freese. Germano allowed four runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings as the Cubs lost for the sixth time in their last seven.
The Cubs hope their close losses turn into close victories on the road against non-contending teams like the Rockies as they search for four more wins this year.
"We're having a losing season, but it can be worse if we get over 100 losses," Soriano said. "We want to just keep fighting and not get to 100 losses because 100 losses is too much. So far, there's frustration, but I think having less than a 100-loss year would be good."