(The Sports Xchange) - Chicago leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler went deep with his first at-bat as the Cubs hammered the St. Louis Cardinals 9-0 on Monday.
The Cubs' center fielder lined a 390-foot homer off Lance Lynn (11-9) to set the tone, then added a two-run double an inning later that made it 3-0.
Lynn did not make it out of the third inning as Chicago (79-57) tacked on five runs for an 8-0 lead and never looked back.
The win moved the Cubs within two games of the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first wild-card spot and pulled them within 7-1/2 games of St. Louis (87-50) in the NL Central.
"The first goal is to win the division," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "But, to do that, you have to catch the next team in front of you, and that's Pittsburgh."
First baseman Anthony Rizzo's RBI double kicked off the third inning and catcher Miguel Montero sent Lynn to the showers with a run-scoring single two hitters later.
Lynn was tagged for seven hits and six runs over 2-1/3 innings, walking two and striking out two.
Pitcher Dan Haren extended the inning with a two-out single, before shortstop Addison Russell cracked a three-run homer, his 13th.
"I just didn't have any command," Lynn said. "The ball was all over the place. When I started making pitches, they were already locked in and I couldn't do anything about it."
Given a huge lead, Haren (9-9) did what he needed to, he threw strikes, kept the ball in the park and did not give the Cardinals a chance to rally.
In seven innings, the veteran scattered seven hits, walked two and struck out five.
"Obviously, being out there with a lead like that was the reason I was out there so long," Haren said.
"The guys played great defense behind me. Having a lead like that, I'm able to be more aggressive and I can throw more strikes."
(Compiled by Greg Stutchbury)