(St. Louis) (AP) – Dioner Navarro made it look simple Saturday night.
The Chicago catcher, picking up a bat for the first time in three days, lashed a run-scoring double in the eighth inning to break a tie and cap a three-run rally that helped the Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-5.
The win gave the Cubs, who won the opener 3-0 on Friday, a series win in St. Louis for the first time in nearly three years.
Matt Holliday homered twice for St. Louis, which lost its fourth in a row. Chicago won for the third time in four games.
Navarro arrived in St. Louis early in the afternoon after having a battery of tests following a scary home-plate collision with Philadelphia’s Chase Utley on Wednesday night. Navarro was carted off the field with what was thought to be a broken ankle.
But X-rays and an MRI showed no damage, so Navarro rejoined his team in time for Saturday’s contest. After speaking with manager Dale Sveum, it was determined that Navarro could be used, “only in a game-winning situation,” according to the catcher.
Navarro didn’t take batting practice Saturday and was unable to sharpen his stroke. Yet as a pinch hitter in the eighth, he slapped an offering from reliever Trevor Rosenthal into the gap to break a 4-4 tie.
“I knew he was going to throw me a fastball,” Navarro said. “He didn’t want to go to 2-1 (in the count). I put a good swing on it and was fortunate enough to hit it in the gap.”
Navarro’s ability to come off the bench and drive a 98 mph pitch impressed his teammates, especially infielder Darwin Barney, who tied the game with a two-run double in the eighth.
“The guy is unbelievable,” Barney said. “He gets here today, he hasn’t taken a swing. To turn on 98 after having not seen a pitch in three days, that’s pretty unbelievable,”
Navarro convinced Sveum that he was good to go before the game.
“We tested to find out if he was even ready to play,” Sveum said. “You don’t worry about him because he’s so good off the bench.”
Navarro is 7 for 20 (.350) as a pinch hitter this season.
The Cubs trailed 4-2 entering the eighth, but tied it 4-4 on Barney’s two-out, two-run double off Rosenthal (1-3). Navarro followed with his fifth pinch-hit RBI of the season to give Chicago a 5-4 lead.
Blake Parker (1-1) picked up the victory for the Cubs, who last won a series in St. Louis on Sept. 13-15, 2010.
Chicago has captured the first two games of this set despite struggling since mid-July. Barney says the Cardinals simply bring out the best in his club.
“You hate to say it, but you get up more for games like this,” Barney said. “They’re in the hunt, and we’re playing spoilers once again. Hopefully, we can keep doing it.”
Welington Castillo homered in the second to give Chicago to a 1-0 lead.
Castillo and Nate Schierholtz drew leadoff walks to start the eighth. Rosenthal struck out the next two batters before Barney hit his 20th double of the season.
Kevin Gregg picked up his 25th save in 29 opportunities despite giving up Holliday’s 15th homer of the season, a solo shot with one out in the ninth. Gregg retired the final two batters on ground outs.
Schierholtz added a run-scoring single in the ninth.
Castillo also had a sacrifice fly in the fifth that trimmed the deficit to 3-2.
Holliday hit a three-run homer in the fourth off Chicago starter Carlos Villanueva to give the Cardinals a 3-1 lead.
St. Louis rookie right-hander Michael Wacha, making his fourth major league start, surrendered two runs on five hits in a 99-pitch stint. He was recalled from Triple-A Memphis earlier in the day for the spot start.
Matt Carpenter and Carlos Beltran led off the fourth with singles to set the stage for Holliday’s line-drive blast over the left-field wall.
The three-run outburst broke a string of 17 straight scoreless innings by St. Louis.
“Sometimes we just don’t get it done,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “We had opportunities. We’ve just got to do things a little different.”
Holliday had the 18th multi-homer game of his career.
Villanueva gave up four runs on seven hits over six innings. His last win as a starter came on April 18.
The Cardinals stretched the lead to 4-2 on back-to-back doubles by Carpenter and Beltran in the sixth.
St. Louis switched around its starting rotation for the series, moving ace Adam Wainwright, the original Saturday starter, to Tuesday so he could face Pittsburgh in the first game of a three-game series between the top two teams in the NL Central.
Darwin said the move did not go unnoticed in the Chicago clubhouse.
“It wasn’t not talked about, let’s say that,” he said.