Cubs' eighth-inning rally delivers comeback win
Navarro returns to contribute pinch-hit, go-ahead RBI double
ST. LOUIS -- Manager Dale Sveum only needed to see two things from Dioner Navarro on Saturday to know whether his backup catcher and top bench player was able to play three days after being carted off the field.
"Just walk and squat," Sveum said of the requirements. "One time was fine enough."
Navarro also was ready to hit. Darwin Barney smacked a game-tying two-run double in the eighth and Navarro followed with a pinch-hit RBI double to lift the Cubs to a motivated 6-5 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Nate Schierholtz added an RBI single in the ninth, which turned out to be much needed as Matt Holliday hit his second home run of the game in the St. Louis ninth off Kevin Gregg. Welington Castillo hit a solo home run and sacrifice fly for the Cubs, who came into this series with a few more incentives than past matchups.
Adam Wainwright was originally scheduled to start Saturday but was skipped so he could be ready for St. Louis' upcoming series against Pittsburgh. The Cubs felt snubbed.
"There's something about playing the Cardinals," Barney said. "It's not good to say, but you get up more for games like this. It's just one of those things where they're in the hunt and need to win some ballgames, and we're playing spoilers once again. That's a good club with an offense that's on the verge of breaking out again. Let's take them while we can."
Were the Cubs offended by the Cardinals' pitching switch?
"If you look at it from their point of view, you don't really try to take offense to that kind of stuff," Barney said. "Obviously, we knew what happened, and it wasn't not talked about, I'll say that. That young kid [Michael Wacha] threw well today and he has good stuff. It's not like they were throwing a nobody against us. It's one of those things."
It was definitely talked about in the Cubs clubhouse.
"Should've used Wainwright," said one of the Cubs pitchers.
Instead, Wacha made his fourth big league start, and served up Castillo's home run leading off the Chicago second.
However, Holliday hit a three-run homer off Cubs starter Carlos Villanueva with one out in the fourth to go ahead, 3-1, his first blast since the All-Star break. Castillo added a sacrifice fly in the fifth, but Matt Carpenter and Carlos Beltran hit back-to-back doubles in the sixth to take a 4-2 lead.
In the eighth, Trevor Rosenthal walked Castillo and Schierholtz, then struck out the next two batters. Barney, batting .211, then lined a double to right to drive in both and tie the game.
"[Rosenthal] had been elevated that whole inning," Barney said. "The mistakes he was making were up in the zone. The guys who laid off that pitch found a way on base. I was a little upset when I fouled off [a 2-2 fastball] that was up. I was telling myself to see something down, something I could handle. Luckily I got a pitch over the plate that I could shoot to right field."
"People are always, 'Why don't you pinch-hit for Barney?'" Sveum said. "It's because he's the one guy who is going to battle and put the ball in play and do baseball player-type things."
Navarro arrived in St. Louis about five hours before game time. He injured his right ankle in a collision at home plate on Wednesday in Philadelphia with Chase Utley, and had gone to Chicago to be examined. Prior to the game, Navarro had to do some agility drills -- as well as walk and squat -- and was pronounced fit. He didn't take batting practice, but it didn't seem to matter as he lined a 97-mph fastball from Rosenthal to right.
He'd joked before the game that he felt faster after the collision.
"I was hauling around third to make sure I touched home before he got tagged out at second," Barney said. "Let him think what he wants. He's still chugging out there."
Was Navarro thinking double all the way?
"I was thinking, 'Get to first,' and I saw the ball going away from [Beltran], and in the back of my mind, I knew it, I knew I needed to get going to second," Navarro said.
So, after not seeing any live pitching since the sixth inning Wednesday and not taking any batting practice, Navarro could just come off the bench and hit a 97-mph fastball?
"Yes," he said, confidently. "They told me early in the game [I would be used] only in game-winning situations, nothing tied. I'm glad we got it."
How does his ankle feel now?
"It feels pretty good," he said. "I'll let you guys know tomorrow."
"He gets here today," Barney said, "and he hadn't taken a swing, he didn't take batting practice, and he's one of those guys who's a gamer. Turn on [97 mph] like that after not seeing a pitch in three days is pretty unbelievable."
The inning played out just as the Cubs wanted.
"It worked perfect," Sveum said. "We were testing [Navarro] today to find out if he could even play, and to get off the couch and get the game-winning hit [that's something], but that's what he's meant to us. He's the perfect backup catcher. You don't worry about him because he's so good off the bench."
Blake Parker picked up his first Major League win in relief, and Gregg held on for his 25th save, and survived David Freese's liner off his right shoulder.
With the win, the Cubs notched their first series victory at Busch Stadium since sweeping the Cardinals in a three-game set, Sept. 13-15, 2010. The two teams square off next weekend at Wrigley Field. Wainwright's next start, by the way, is Tuesday against the Pirates.