Four-batter stretch spells doom for Volstad

ST. LOUIS -- Things blew up in what seemed to be an instant on Saturday for Chicago Cubs starter Chris Volstad, who remains winless in a Cubs uniform after two starts.

A four-run fourth inning for the St. Louis Cardinals derailed the right-hander and was enough of a blight on an otherwise solid day that the Cubs would never recover, suffering a 5-1 defeat.

Forget the Starlin Castro throwing error that started the half inning for a second. Volstad followed that by retiring Carlos Beltran. He then faced a full count against Matt Carpenter, before the left-handed hitter crushed a ball off the wall.

Yadier Molina singled, Daniel Descalso tripled and Tyler Greene singled to take Volstad from cruise control to a blown engine in a matter of moments. Four runs crossed the plate and the Cubs would never threaten the remainder of the game.

“I kind of stopped executing,” Volstad said. “Pitches were out over the plate and up a little bit. I guess at that point you need to slow it down and take a deep breath and go back to what I was doing earlier in the game. Just keep the ball down and basically execute the pitch.”

Yet, there was even more evidence of how out of sorts Volstad was during that inning. After Molina singled, he basically started jogging toward second base before Volstad started his delivery. The Cardinals catcher stole his first base of the season, while his four career steals against the Cubs are his most against any team.

“Just kind of a lapse of thinking on my part,” he said. “It was something that won’t happen again. I just drew a blank and there’s nothing I can really say on that.”

Otherwise, though, Volstad was solid and improved on his Cubs debut on Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers in which he allowed three runs over five innings with five hits and two walks while striking out six.

In fact, his three earned runs (four total) Saturday over six innings gave him a quality start. He also went over the 100-pitch mark (101) for the first time since July when he pitched for the Marlins against the New York Mets.

“I was using my changeup really well today, also to right-handers as well as left-handers. I was mixing that in,” Volstad said. “The curveball I started throwing that a little more, more than I did the first game. I definitely mixed them well and other than those couple of hitters [in the fourth inning] I did a good job of mixing it up and locating.”

If he can avoid clustering hits together and make the key pitch when he has to, his first Cubs victory awaits.

“With Carpenter that was probably the pitch of the inning that full-count pitch he hit off the wall,” Volstad said. “Make a quality pitch there and get him out and it’s two outs, runner on first. I think that was the big pitch of the inning.”