CHICAGO — Daryle Ward can stop worrying about hitting that first home run for the Chicago Cubs.
Ward hit a grand slam in the third inning and Derrek Lee had three hits to help Chicago beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-3 Saturday.
“I’ve been trying to do everything I can to get my first one,” Ward said. “I tried different T-shirts and everything and I finally got one and it came at a pretty good spot.”
Sean Marshall (6-6) pitched five-plus innings for NL Central-leading Chicago, which has won three straight after a four-game skid. It was just its seventh win in 17 games.
Albert Pujols, Juan Encarnacion and Brendan Ryan homered for the Cardinals, who fell four games back of the Cubs. St. Louis has dropped the first two games of the key series after coming in with a five-game winning streak.
The Cubs managed just eight hits in their two wins against the Cardinals.
“They’ve scored seven runs and six of them have come on two swings and two mistakes in 17 innings,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “We’ve pitched better than seven runs, but that’s baseball.”
The start of the game was delayed 1 hour, 1 minute by rain and it was played during occasional showers. The rain picked up and halted the game in the top of the eighth inning with two outs and two strikes on Chris Duncan. After a 1-hour, 5-minute delay, reliever Carmen Pignatiello struck out Duncan on one pitch to end the inning.
Marshall, who was 0-2 in his previous three starts, allowed two runs and five hits. Five relievers combined to finish it up, with Ryan Dempster pitching a perfect ninth for his 19th save in 21 opportunities.
“We need total contribution from our team,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. “One thing, as long as you are here you are going to get an opportunity because we play everybody and pitch everybody and that’s the way it should be.”
Chicago scored all of its runs with two outs in the third. Lee singled with runners on first and third to make it 1-0. Anthony Reyes (2-12) then walked Aramis Ramirez and Ward followed with a drive to left-center for his third career grand slam. Ward came out of the dugout for a curtain call.
“I knew I hit it well but the wind was blowing so hard and I’m running real hard and I’m looking for it to hit the wall or somewhere in the gap and I saw it hit the basket and raised my arms up because I was really excited,” Ward said.
Ward has been getting time in right field with Cliff Floyd on the bereavement list because of the death of his father.
“We want to stay consistent and we have the ballclub to do it even with some guys missing like Cliff and (Alfonso) Soriano,” Ward said. “We miss those guys, but we have some other players in the clubhouse that can come in and fill in the roles and they have been doing their job well.”
Marshall allowed solo drives to Encarnacion in the fourth inning and Ryan in the fifth. Pujols hit his 27th of the season off reliever Bob Howry in the eighth to cut the lead to 5-3.
The Cardinals almost scored in the sixth when Carlos Marmol threw a wild pitch with runners on first and third. The ball ricocheted off a brick wall and catcher Jason Kendall slid and flipped it to Marmol with Pujols charging home. Marmol tagged Pujols on the upper body and plate umpire Ted Barrett called him out.
Pujols pleaded with Barrett for a few seconds before La Russa came out to argue. After getting an explanation from Barrett, La Russa went back to the dugout. But he came out for another explanation from Barrett after Duncan struck out swinging and the ball got away from Kendall.