CHICAGO -- Kyle Schwarber may have finally found the perfect spot in the Cubs' batting order. Schwarber, who began the season as the leadoff man, was dropped to ninth on Saturday and belted his first career grand slam in the seventh inning to power the Cubs to a 5-3 victory
CHICAGO -- Kyle Schwarber may have finally found the perfect spot in the Cubs' batting order. Schwarber, who began the season as the leadoff man, was dropped to ninth on Saturday and belted his first career grand slam in the seventh inning to power the Cubs to a 5-3 victory over the Cardinals at Wrigley Field.
"That's a pretty relevant moment in today's game and hopefully something he can build upon," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Schwarber, who began the day batting .163.
• Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Schwarber, Molina and other #ASGWorthy players
The Cubs trailed, 3-1, against National League ERA leader Mike Leake with one out in the seventh when Jason Heyward and Willson Contreras both singled. One out later, pinch-hitter Jonathan Jay was hit by a pitch to load the bases and set up Schwarber, who launched the first pitch from Leake 403 feet into the left-center-field bleachers. Schwarber tipped his helmet to the fans from the dugout for a well-deserved curtain call.
"It was nice to come up in that spot and be able to help out," Schwarber said. "It's kind of a sigh of relief. I want to go up there and help my team, and for me to do that today was great."
Jose Martinez hit a two-run single in the Cardinals' first, and Yadier Molina added a solo home run in the sixth off Chicago starter Jonathan Lester, who did not get a decision.
"It was nice to get a couple in the first and put pressure on 'em," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Unfortunately, we weren't able to keep that going right until Yadi gives us a little more room later. But yeah, we've just got to figure out ways to get those runs in when they're giving them to us."
This was Leake's first loss on the road this season, and he's now 0-5 in six career starts against the Cubs since 2016. His ERA is now 2.64.
• Leake coasts before serving up decisive slam
Schwarber was dropped to second in the batting order in late May, and then seventh on Friday. Saturday was his first game batting ninth, behind the pitcher, as Maddon was hoping Schwarber would get better pitches to hit. He was 5-for-60 before the grand slam, and his last three hits have been home runs.
"I did expect him to be pretty aggressive just because he has been scuffling," Leake said of Schwarber. " Obviously, it was off by a few inches of where I wanted it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rumbling, then stumbling: The Cubs' third inning started well as Javier Baez led off with his ninth home run, belting a 1-1 pitch from Leake to center.
Two outs later, Ian Happ reached on a broken-bat single, although he stumbled out of the batter's box and did a somersault. Happ got to his feet and to first in time. Kristopher Bryant was hit by a pitch, but Leake struck Anthony Rizzo out to get out of the inning. More >
Lester tested, foils strategy:Tommy Pham walked with two outs in the Cardinals' fifth and took a huge lead at first base, testing Lester. The Cubs pitcher got Pham, throwing him out. It's the first time Lester has picked off a runner at first since Sept. 20, 2015, and the 27th time in his career. That pickoff in September 2015 was of the Cardinals' Jhonny Peralta.
"Get a big lead, and this is the first time you know he's ever made a successful pick in who knows how long," Pham said. "Worked for him today. The approach was to get off about 20 feet, and I was going to go. I was looking to get at least two bags today. It didn't work."
"I didn't see anything," Lester said. "I just threw the ball over there." More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Schwarber's homer was the first go-ahead grand slam by a Cubs batter when trailing in the seventh inning or later since David DeJesus hit one on May 11, 2012, against the Brewers. Schwarber leads the Cubs with six game-winning RBIs.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
With one out in the Cubs' fifth, Baez attempted to capitalize on what was initially ruled a throwing error by Leake. Baez was at second and tried to advance on the error and was ruled safe. The Cardinals challenged the call, and after a review, it was overturned.
Cardinals: Right-hander Michael Wacha will get the ball for the Cardinals to finish off the series Sunday at 6:35 p.m. CT. Wacha has struggled in his last two outings, going 0-2 and giving up 10 runs (nine earned) in seven innings. He had gone at least six innings in every start prior to that stretch.
Cubs:Kyle Hendricks will close the three-game series against the Cardinals on Sunday. Hendricks is 2-1 with a 3.49 ERA in five starts at Wrigley Field. He has not yet faced the Cardinals this season.
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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.
Scott Chasen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago and covered the Cardinals on Saturday.