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Bill Mueller made the most of his first start of the season. The Cubs third baseman, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee March 11, went 2-for-4 with a home run.
But it was Alex Gonzalez's game-winning, ninth-inning homer that stood out in the Cubs' 6-5 victory over St. Louis Monday night in front of 35,083 at Wrigley Field.
"I wasn't thinking about a home run at all," said Gonzalez, who connected on a one-out, 1-0 pitch in a 5-5 ballgame. "I was just trying get on base.
"But I took an aggressive swing and, lo and behold, it went out."
Gonzalez's home run, his third of the season, came off of loser Mike Timlin (0-2).
"A big game like this, against our rivals, another team in our division, is always uplifting," Gonzalez said. "To win it like this and to have Bill [Mueller] back in the lineup and contribute like he did is a big lift for the ballclub."
The Cubs allowed an early 4-1 lead to slip away and were trailing 5-4 after the top of the fifth inning when St. Louis' Jim Edmonds hit a two-run home run onto Sheffield Avenue.
But Mueller tied it at 5-5 with a solo homer to right field in the bottom of the inning.
"I was just trying to stay relaxed, focus on what my job was to do and not get wrapped up in this being my first game," said Mueller, who grew up not far from St. Louis in Maryland Heights, Mo.
"The only extra emotion involved is that my folks get to watch the game. It's really just another team. Every win is important when you play inside your division."
It wasn't a great outing by starter Jon Lieber, who allowed five earned runs and 11 hits in seven innings. But Gonzalez's homer made the Cubs winners in Lieber's last 16 starts at Wrigley Field
and Jeff Fasserro (1-2), who pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, the winning pitcher.
After the Cardinals scored a run in the top of the third inning Lieber ignited the the Cubs' four-run rally in the bottom of the inning. The .157 lifetime hitter, had a one-out single and moved to second on a Corey Patterson ground out, which Cardinals first baseman Tino Martinez grabbed with a diving stop.
Mueller followed with an infield single and Sosa was unintentionally walked to load the bases for Fred McGriff.
The Cubs first baseman hit a warning-track fly ball to left-center field. Left fielder Kerry Robinson and center fielder Edmonds looked at each other, allowing the ball to fall for a ground-rule double and a 2-1 lead.
Moises Alou then smacked a two-run single to left center for a 4-1 advantage.
"Kerry thinks Jim will take charge ... Jim thinks he's got farther to run," St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa said of McGriff's double. "Somebody's got to say something. It's not something that should happen in this league."
The Cardinals, however, cut the deficit to 4-3 in the fourth on Edgar Renteria's one-out, two-run homer into the left-field basket, and took the 5-4 lead on Edmonds' fifth-inning, two-out two-run homer.
"Some things are starting to come around," Fassero said. "We're getting some decent pitching and some timely hitting right now. That's something we didn't have at the start of the season.
"If we can continue that, we'll start putting some wins together."