The Chicago Cubs, who were a miserable 7-22 in May, won their second straight series and became the first team to take a series on the Cardinals' home turf when they beat St. Louis, 8-5, on Saturday. Aramis Ramirez hit his sixth career grand slam and Phil Nevin added a two-run homer, his first with the team, to power the Cubs.
"You come in here and win two in a row and be in the position we are for [Sunday] and we'll take it," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.
Glendon Rusch (2-5) picked up the win in his first start since April 29. The left-hander, who had made seven relief appearances in May, gave up three runs on four hits and two walks over five innings.
"There's a ton of baseball left," Rusch said. "It's just a matter of going out and playing consistent baseball."
The Cubs, who beat the Cardinals, 5-4, in 14 innings on Friday night, now lead the season series 6-2, and disappointed the very red-clad fans in the sellout crowd of 45,820 at new Busch Stadium. It was the largest crowd of the season at the stadium.
"We're playing pretty good," Ramirez said. "We're doing everything we have to."
David Eckstein had given the Cardinals a 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the third. The Cubs then loaded the bases in the fourth against Mark Mulder (5-4) when Neifi Perez was safe on a throwing error by Eckstein, Michael Barrett singled, and Nevin reached on a muffed play by third baseman Scott Rolen. Ramirez launched a 2-0 pitch from Mulder to right-center field for his 10th homer of the year.
Matt Murton and Jacque Jones each singled, and Murton scored on Ronny Cedeno's base hit, the seventh straight batter to reach base in the inning, to go ahead, 5-1.
"They helped us with some errors by guys who don't make them," Baker said. "I've never seen Eckstein throw one away and Scotty [make an error] two days in a row. Maybe it's our time to get some breaks. We capitalized on them."
Barrett walked to open the Cubs fifth and Nevin followed with his home run, a shot to straightaway center, to make it 7-1. Nevin hit nine homers in 46 games with the Texas Rangers this year before he was dealt to the Cubs on May 31.
Nevin was almost giddy after the game.
"It almost felt like an Opening Day at-bat," Nevin said. "I haven't been nervous in a game in a long time and I had a little bit of that today."
"I don't know -- I keep looking down and seeing 'Chicago' [on his jersey] and it's pretty cool," he said.
He survived playing first base for only the second time all season. Nevin was primarily a designated hitter with the Rangers.
"I wouldn't say [it was like riding a bike] -- my body doesn't feel like that right now," he said. "It was fun. Everybody for the most part, except the last one, made great throws to me and made my job easy today.
"I felt a little more like a baseball player," he said.
Even Novoa got into the act, hitting a ground-rule RBI double with two outs in the Chicago seventh. He borrowed Barrett's helmet, Rusch's batting gloves and Henry Blanco's bat for his first hit in seven career at-bats. Novoa also pitched three much-needed innings to give the rest of the 'pen a break.
"We knew it would be a battle of who didn't want to go to the bullpen first," Baker said, acknowledging both teams were a little gassed after Friday's extra-inning adventure. "We ended up having to go first."
"It was a great job by Roberto," Rusch said. "That was the key to the game today."
As for Rusch, he's back in the Cubs rotation for now.
"I know I had to get us at least somewhat deep in the game," Rusch said. "Since it was my first start in a while, I think I did OK."
If the Cubs played only the Cardinals, they'd run away with the division.
"I think we've just been playing good baseball in these series," Rusch said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.