Leake Runs Out of Gas in the 7th
CHICAGO (AP) — Despite a frustrating first two months of the season, Kyle Schwarber has focused on remaining upbeat.
“I always try to stay as positive and as mentally strong as possible because I know how crazy this game can be,” he said. “You have your highest highs, your lowest lows, but you have to stay the same person.”
Saturday was the highest of highs for the slumping slugger.
Schwarber hit his first career grand slam in the bottom of the seventh inning to rally the Chicago Cubs to a 5-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Schwarber, who entered batting .163 and was dropped to the ninth spot in the lineup, hit the first pitch of the at-bat from St. Louis starter Mike Leake (5-4) deep into the bleachers in left-center.
“It was where we wanted to go, but it was slightly elevated and slightly over the plate too much for him,” Leake said.
Javier Baez also homered for Chicago, which has won two straight following a six-game losing streak.
Yadier Molina homered and Jose Martinez had two RBIs for the Cardinals.
Hector Rondon (1-1) pitched a scoreless seventh to earn the win. Wade Davis got the final three outs for his 12th save.
Leake, who entered leading the National League with a 2.24 ERA, allowed five runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings.
The Cardinals grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first inning off Cubs starter Jon Lester on a two-run broken bat single by Martinez.
Leake retired the first six batters before Baez led off the third with a long homer to straightaway center to trim the lead in half.
Molina got the run back in the sixth with a two-out solo shot to make it 3-1.
That’s where it stayed until the bottom of the seventh. Jason Heyward and Willson Contreras each singled to put runners on first and third with one out. Leake then struck out Baez with a slider well off the plate and appeared on the verge of getting out of the jam.
But he hit pinch hitter Jon Jay with a pitch to load the bases. St. Louis manager Mike Matheny had left-hander Kevin Siegrist warming in the bullpen, but opted to stay with Leake against Schwarber, who had grounded out and struck out in his previous at-bats.
“He had a five-pitch inning the inning before,” Matheny said of Leake. “He looked good. We made a decision to let him get that last out and it didn’t work.”
It worked out well for the Cubs. Any player hitting a slam to turn a game around would be excited — it was the first go-ahead slam in the seventh or later by the Cubs since 2012 — but Schwarber was especially pumped.
Manager Joe Maddon said his hand really hurt after a high five.
“Yeah, I gave him a little extra,” Schwarber said. “It was an exciting moment, it was a big moment. To put us ahead in that spot and hold those guys off for the win was big.”
Since joining the Cubs in 2015, Lester has become infamous for his reluctance to throw to first base. Runners have taken advantage by taking huge leads and essentially daring the left-hander to pick them off.
It happened in the fifth inning when Lester picked off Tommy Pham. Lester stepped off and lobbed a soft throw to first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Pham, who had a huge lead, hesitated and was easily tagged out.
It was Lester’s first pickoff since 2015.
Cubs: SS Addison Russell essentially was given a mental health day off. With Russell struggling at the plate — he entered batting .213 and was hitless in last three games — Maddon felt it was a good time to let him sit and watch.