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CHC@MIL: Hammel fans seven, scatters three hits

Jason Hammel can only hope May is as kind to him as April was.

Hammel, who leads the Majors with a 0.69 WHIP, had a no-hitter through five innings en route to seven scoreless innings and a win in his last start against the Brewers. Not bad for a pitcher signed just days before Cubs pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training.

"I always want to be the stopper, and we all do," said Hammel, 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA. "It's something you think about. You want to be that guy who is dependable and you know what you're going to get every time out. Now that I'm healthy, and feel like I can execute when I want to."

Instead of being the stopper, Hammel will try to be the finisher as the Cubs go for their first sweep of the season when the Cubs and Cardinals meet for the series finale Sunday night.

The Cardinals will send righty Lance Lynn to the mound, who has struggled with high pitch counts. He needed 102 pitches to get through five innings while allowing three earned runs in his last start, a no-decision against the Brewers. Part of the high pitch count comes from a high number of strikeouts -- he strikes out 10.3 hitters per nine innings.

Pitching hasn't been the main problem for the Cardinals this season, though. Their inconsistent offense, on the other hand, has held them back. The Cards are hitting just .228 with runners in scoring position while averaging 3.5 runs per game.

"It's just comes down to creating some confidence," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It's what it comes down to. It can be personnel, it can be how we go about playing and challenging and pushing. If there was an answer, we would have never waited this long."

Cubs: Sweeney to DL
Ryan Sweeney made a great catch Friday but the Cubs outfielder strained his right hamstring on the play, and had to be placed on the 15-day disabled list. The Cubs selected the contract of outfielder Chris Coghlan, the 2009 National League Rookie of the Year, from Triple-A Iowa.

Sweeney is the second outfielder to have a hamstring injury, joining Justin Ruggiano, who was placed on the DL on April 24 with a strained left hamstring. Both are expected to miss at least three weeks. Sweeney came up limping after chasing down Allen Craig's fly ball in the Cardinals' eighth on Friday. Sweeney caught the ball, but couldn't make the throw home and flipped it to left fielder Ryan Kalish.

Coghlan, 28, was in Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. A left-handed hitter, he was batting .243 (17-for-70) with five doubles, six RBIs, six stolen bases, 13 walks and a .379 on-base percentage in 24 games with Iowa.

"Any time you're in Triple-A, it was humbling," Coghlan said. "It's a grind. I'm grateful for the opportunity to play every day and get back here."

A career .270 big league hitter, Coghlan was limited to 70 games with the Marlins last year because of a right calf injury, and batted .256 (50-for-195).

"He's a guy we can use off the bench, he's a guy who can start in the outfield," manager Rick Renteria said of Coghlan. "He just continues to give us a little flexibility."

Cardinals: Home, sweet home around the corner
The Cardinals are nearing the end of a stretch in which they've played 20 of 26 games on the road. It's the most road games through the first 38 games of a season for the Cards since 1927.

Following Sunday's series finale with the Cubs, the Cardinals will travel to Atlanta and Pittsburgh for a pair of three-game sets before returning home to start a 10-game homestand that begins with a four-game series against the Cubs.

"We've still got two cities left on this trip for the second straight trip and we've got two straight Sunday night road games, so they didn't make it easy on us to start the season," Lynn said. "That's just part of being a team that likes to be on TV on road games. We have a tendency to get a lot of road Sunday night games, it's just part of it."

Worth noting
• With three singles in Saturday's game, Matt Adams recorded his NL-leading and Major League-tying 14th multi-hit game of the year. He's hitting .360 (32-for-89) in 23 games against NL Central opponents this year.

• Mark Ellis snapped an 0-for-9 skid with a pinch-hit single to left in the seventh on Saturday.

• Jhonny Peralta (2-for-4) posted his second consecutive multi-hit game on Saturday. He has now hit safely in seven of the past eight games, during which he is hitting .375 (12-for-32).

• Hector Rondon is 3-for-3 in save opportunities, and all three saves have come against the Cardinals.

• Anthony Rizzo has homered in three straight games for the first time in his career. He is batting .400 (20-for-50) in 15 games at Wrigley Field.

• Junior Lake will be disappointed to see the Cardinals leave town. He has gone 6-for-13 against them with two home runs and three RBIs. Comments