CHICAGO — With the wind blowing out at Wrigley Field, the conditions were perfect for the St. Louis Cardinals to get their offense out of a season-long funk.
Albert Pujols hit a three-run home run in the 10th inning and Scott Rolen had a career-best five hits to help the defending World Series champions beat the Chicago Cubs 12-9 on Sunday.
“The ball was blowing out of the park. You don’t have to kill the ball to go out,” said Pujols, who cleared the bleachers in left-center with his long drive off Ryan Dempster.
“I just tried to go back up the middle and the ball went out of the park,” Pujols said. “If you made a mistake, the hitter was going to make you pay.”
St. Louis closer Jason Isringhausen couldn’t hold a two-run lead in the ninth, but Pujols and the Cardinals recovered.
Preston Wilson singled to start the 10th against Dempster (0-1). One out later, David Eckstein singled off Aramis Ramirez’s glove at third before Pujols hit his fifth home run of the season.
“Today is tough, especially given the elements and how we battled back, not once but twice,” Dempster said. “I just try to go right after guys. I made a pitch to Albert that came back a little bit and he hit it.”
The Cardinals scored only 50 runs in their first 17 games. The middle of their lineup, Pujols, Rolen and Jim Edmonds, had all struggled, batting around .200 or just under. But St. Louis had 17 hits, including home runs by Rolen, Edmonds, Chris Duncan and then Pujols.
“Hopefully, this is the game that triggers everything. Hopefully, the middle of the lineup will be producing more,” Pujols said. “We don’t want to force it to happen.”
The Cubs tied the score in the ninth on Mark DeRosa’s two-out, two-run bloop single off Isringhausen (1-0). It was his first blown save in five chances.
Michael Barrett singled and, two outs later, pinch-hitter Alfonso Soriano, who had missed five straight games with a strained hamstring, hit a double past third on an 0-2 pitch.
DeRosa’s fly ball down the right-field line fell beyond the reach of second baseman Aaron Miles and in front of Wilson for a two-run single.
Tyler Johnson and Russ Springer combined to pitch a hitless 10th for St. Louis.
Rolen’s two-run triple in the ninth gave the Cardinals a 9-7 lead. Rolen finished 5-for-6 and raised his batting average 68 points in one day from .200 to .268.
“I’ll take it. It’s been a long while,” Rolen said. “I feel like all of a sudden I’m having a decent year. ... I felt more comfortable today. I controlled my at-bats a little better. It was a good day to hit.”
Ramirez’s three-run home run off St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright tied the score at 7 in the sixth.
On a 75-degree day with the wind blowing out at 18 mph, it was a home run hitter’s delight.
Duncan hit a two-run shot in the fifth off Wade Miller, giving St. Louis a 6-4 lead. One out later, Rolen lifted a long solo shot to left-center, his second home run of the season.
Adam Kennedy, batting .196 with just two RBIs entering play, hit a two-out, two-run double on a 3-2 pitch in the fourth to tie it at 4.
Barrett’s third home run in his past three games was a two-run drive to center that made it 4-2 Chicago in the third.
Edmonds’ first home run of the season, a two-run shot in the second, tied it at 2 and matched Edmonds’ RBI total coming into the game.
Miller gave up nine hits and seven runs in 42/3 innings. Wainwright was tagged for 12 hits and seven runs in 51/3 innings.
Jacque Jones hit a two-run single for the Cubs with two outs in the first.