CHICAGO — Tony La Russa is back in St. Louis recovering from a painful bout with shingles. Yet most anyone who watched the presentation of lineup cards Thursday would’ve been sure the veteran manager was at Wrigley Field.
Pitcher Kyle Lohse gave a spot-on impression before the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs 9-1. He donned a La Russa jersey, wore his trademark sunglasses and made some of his familiar gestures as he stood at the plate with the umpires.
As Lohse returned to the dugout, he was greeted with applause, laughter and high-fives from his teammates. It sort set the tone for the lopsided victory.
Lohse said La Russa let acting manager Joe Pettini know he was OK with the act.
“He texted Pettini and appreciated it. He appreciated the win more. He liked the gesture,’’ Lohse said.
“I’ve been doing the Tony for a couple days. My hair is getting out of control. I realized when I didn’t gel it up, it hangs all over the place, throw the hat on and you’ve got Tony,’’ Lohse said. “Messing around before the game, I was like ‘I’m gonna do it! I’m gonna do it!’ Threw his jersey on, went down there and it just kept escalating from there. I got deeper and deeper, I couldn’t get out of it.’’
Cubs manager Mike Quade said he was almost mad at himself because he wasn’t at the plate to see Lohse’s impersonation. Instead, bench coach Pat Listach represented the Cubs.
“It shocked me to death,’’ Quade said. “Was that unbelievable or what? Looked just like him, didn’t it?’’
Once the game started after the early frivolity, Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia stayed unbeaten and Matt Holliday set off a five-run second with a longer homer.
The Cardinals, resting some of their regulars, captured their second win in the three-game series headed into a series in Cincinnati with the defending NL Central champion Reds.
Garcia (5-0) wasn’t as good as his last outing when he took a perfect game into the eighth against the Brewers. But he allowed just a run on nine hits in seven innings, throwing 84 pitches on an 84-degree afternoon.
“Sometimes you’re going to throw really good and sometimes, like today, you won’t have your best stuff. But if you battle, that’s what it’s all about,’’ Garcia said.
Holliday led off a five-run second with his fifth homer, a long shot off Casey Coleman (1-3) that cleared the bleachers in left field. Colby Rasmus singled, Yadier Molina doubled and with one out, the Cubs intentionally walked Tyler Greene to load the bases.
But Garcia foiled that strategy with an RBI single, Jon Jay followed with a two-run double and Allen Craig hit a sacrifice fly to make it 5-0. Molina hit an RBI single in the fifth for a six-run cushion.
Coleman is a fill-in with fourth and fifth starters Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner on the disabled list. He was OK in his previous outing against the Reds, but couldn’t keep the ball down against the Cardinals.
“When you lose two top-notch starters, it’s not an easy gap to fill,’’ Quade said. “We’ll get through this, we’ll get those guys and back and be fine. ... He (Coleman) just didn’t have a very good day today.’’
Garcia blanked the Cubs until the sixth when Marlon Byrd, Aramis Ramirez and Jeff Baker hit consecutive singles. Carlos Pena drew a walk that loaded the bases with one out, but Garcia retired Alfonso Soriano on a popup and struck out Wellington Castillo.
The Cardinals added three in the seventh as Greene and Nick Punto had RBI doubles and Jay had an RBI single. Jay, starting with Lance Berkman resting, had three hits and drove in three runs.
“I just wanted to contribute. It’s something that our team has, a lot of depth,’’ Jay said. “We can give guys rest and other guys can come in and contribute.’’
Coleman lasted only 4 1/3 innings, giving up nine hits and six runs with four walks.
“It’s tough when you tease them with one good outing and go out there and don’t do as well,’’ said Coleman, a third-generation major leaguer.