CHICAGO — The Cubs will gladly pardon the interruption of their 10-game road trip.
Chicago got 17 hits during a one-game stopover at Wrigley Field, helping Ted Lilly win his 15th game and beating the St. Louis Cardinals 12-3.
“It is weird,” said Aramis Ramirez, who homered twice and had four hits. “We were supposed to be in Houston having a day off today, and we’re here playing a game in Chicago.”
Ramirez wasn’t complaining, just happy to see his teammates join him in a rare offensive outburst.
“We struggled the last couple of weeks to put runs on the board and we lost a couple of tough games,” Ramirez said. “It’s fun when everybody is getting their hits, for personal reasons and for the team.”
It was just the third win in eight games for Chicago, which fell out of first place Sunday for the first time since Aug. 16 and began Monday one game behind Milwaukee in the NL Central.
Derrek Lee and Ramirez homered in a five-run fourth, and Ramirez added another solo shot in a four-run eighth.
“Where’s that been? That was a thing of beauty. We hit the ball for power. We hit the ball in the gaps. We hit the ball with men in scoring position,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. “A game like this can really get you going.”
St. Louis, which started the day three back of the Brewers, lost its fourth straight and dropped to 69-72.
Both teams made a quick detour to play the makeup, caused by an Aug. 19 rainout.
The Cardinals came to Chicago from Arizona and didn’t land until around 11:30 p.m. Sunday night. Next, the World Series champions have three games at the Reds.
“There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll be ready to play in Cincinnati,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “I know we’re going to play hard enough, but then you have to play good enough. We were close in Arizona. This was a game that got out of control. It was ugly.”
The Cubs arrived home from Pittsburgh and head to the road for a critical swing that takes them to Houston for three games and St. Louis for four.
“This little stretch here favors the Milwaukee situation because of the fact the two teams closest to them are playing each other,” Piniella said before the game. “This week will tell a lot, starting today and ending Sunday. It will tell a whole lot about what is going to happen in this division and how close it will be.”
Lilly (15-7) matched his career high for victories, set last year with the Blue Jays. He allowed five hits, including homers to Jim Edmonds and So Taguchi, and struck out seven in seven innings.
The left-hander is 9-1 when starting following a Cubs’ loss and has 17 career victories in September, his most in any month.
“This is why you prepare and work throughout the season, so you can finish strong,” he said. “I’ve taken care of myself and I expect to go out there and do well from here on out.”
Joel Pineiro (4-3) gave up two homers, three doubles and a single in a span of seven batters in the fourth. Lee led off with his 18th homer and, one out later, Ramirez followed with his 21st for a 3-1 lead.
Mark DeRosa singled and then Jacque Jones, Jason Kendall and Lilly all lined RBI doubles in succession to finish Pineiro, who had beaten the Cubs at Wrigley three weeks ago. Pineiro lasted 3 1-3 innings, his shortest outing in eight starts since the Cardinals acquired him July 31 from Boston, where he’d been a reliever.
“They hit everything: curveball, change-up, slider, fastball,” Pineiro said. “It’s disappointing. I let my teammates down, I let myself down, I let everybody else down. Now I just have to get ready to face these guys on the weekend.”
Chicago loaded the bases in the fifth against Brian Falkenborg on a walk, a double by Ramirez and a hit batter, and Jones hit an RBI single to make it 7-1.
One pitch after Lilly knocked him down with a high-and-tight offering, Taguchi hit a two-run homer in the sixth. DeRosa had been drilled in the arm by Falkenborg the previous inning and his elbow was swollen after the game. He might not be able to play Tuesday.
Kelvin Jimenez hit Kendall in the seventh, loading the bases, and Yadier Molina’s passed ball allowed Chicago’s eighth run to cross.
Cliff Floyd had a two-out RBI single in the first after a double by Lee. Edmonds’ 11th homer tied the game in the second.