ST. LOUIS -- Jake Arrieta has carried the Chicago Cubs quite a bit since last summer.
On Wednesday, his teammates repaid the favor by carrying him through his worst start since last June.
Arrieta allowed four runs in a regular-season game for the first time since June 16, 2015, but emerged from a wild 9-8 slugfest victory over the St. Louis Cardinals with his 20th consecutive win, dating back to July of 2015.
In upping his record to 9-0, Arrieta was cuffed around for seven hits in five innings, walking one and fanning four. Lifted for a pinch-hitter during a three-run sixth that ultimately assured him the win, Arrieta thanked the offense for propping him up.
"I picked a good day to be (bad)," Arrieta said.
Chicago (31-14) pieced together its second six-run inning in as many games, battering Carlos Martinez (4-5) in an 11-batter second inning, then fending off St. Louis (24-23) for the day's remainder.
Five relievers barely managed to hold off the Cardinals over the last four innings, with Hector Rondon bagging his eighth save after a tightrope act through the ninth.
Working for the first time since May 18 in Milwaukee, Rondon surrendered leadoff hits to Stephen Piscotty and Matt Adams. Yadier Molina tried to bunt both men into scoring position but eventually fanned.
Randal Grichuk, who touched Arrieta for a solo homer and an RBI single in his first two at-bats, worked the count full but waved at a slider down and away for a strikeout and the second out. Rondon then retired pinch-hitter Jedd Gyorko on a comebacker, ending the Cubs' road trip at 4-5 and sending them home for 10 consecutive games.
"That team never takes an out off and they play hard to the end," Chicago manager Joe Maddon said of St. Louis. "But we ran the pitch count up on Martinez and took some really good at-bats."
Most of those good at-bats occurred during the 38-pitch second inning, which saw the Cubs tally five two-out runs. The inning's big hits were a two-run double off the first base bag by Jason Heyward and a two-run single by Ben Zobrist, his second hit of the inning.
But Chicago's biggest hit came from Kris Bryant, who jacked a three-run homer off reliever Seung Hwan Oh with two outs in the sixth for a 9-4 lead. It was Bryant's 10th homer and the first homer Oh has allowed in 24 2/3 big league innings.
St. Louis shaved its deficit down to 9-7 in its half of the sixth when Matt Holliday lined a three-run homer to right-center, a pitch after third baseman Tommy La Stella committed his second error of the day. Adams led off the seventh with his sixth homer off reliever Travis Wood.
However, the Cardinals couldn't quite finish the comeback that would have prevented Arrieta from extending his nearly year-long streak of excellence.
"To put up runs like that against arguably the best (pitcher) in the game is huge," Grichuk said, "but it's disappointing that we couldn't win the game."
Martinez (4-5) permitted six runs and six hits in five innings, walking three and fanning seven in dropping his fifth straight start after winning his first four. Martinez has allowed 19 runs in 25 innings during his losing streak.
Zobrist bagged three of the Cubs' 10 hits, while Bryant went 2-for-3 and reached base four times. Addison Russell went 2-for-4 with a pair of runs and an RBI.
Adams went 3-for-5 with two RBIs, giving him 15 RBIs in 17 May games. Piscotty and Grichuk each collected a pair of hits, but St. Louis' 12-hit attack wasn't enough to keep Arrieta from lengthening his winning streak.
With a lot of help from appreciative teammates.
"I came out and felt as good as I have all year," Arrieta summed up. "I threw a lot of strikes, but they put a lot of good swings on pitches. Good thing our offense was able to be extremely productive today."
NOTES: St. Louis acquired Triple-A OF Jose Martinez from Kansas City Wednesday morning in exchange for cash considerations. The 27-year-old Martinez, who won the Pacific Coast League batting title last year with a .384 average, was batting .298 with three homers and 18 RBIs this year for Omaha. ... Chicago's 30-14 start is its best since going 31-13 to open the 1918 campaign. ... The Cardinals moved RHP Mitch Harris (right elbow) from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL to make room for Martinez on their 40-man roster.