Though St. Louis leadoff man Fernando Vina looks like the odd man out in a lineup full of .300 hitters, appearances can be deceiving. Vina came into this weekend's Cubs-Cardinals series with a .219 average, but he also carried a .342 career mark against Cubs pitching.
"I heard he always has been a Cub-killer," Lenny Harris said.
The Cardinals' sparkplug solidified that reputation Friday, cranking a second-inning grand slam to lead St. Louis to a 6-3 victory before 38,531, the largest crowd of the season at Wrigley Field.
After Carlos Zambrano loaded the bases on two infield hits and a walk, Vina yanked his first pitch into the right-field bleachers to give the Cardinals all the runs they would need.
"He had been cold," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of Vina. "We just chose the wrong time for him to get hot. He hit the ball pretty good. I didn't think it was going to go out of the ballpark. I didn't think some of those balls were going to go as far as they did."
Zambrano (3-3) settled down and pitched into the eighth inning. But the Cubs couldn't solve Cardinals right-hander Matt Morris (4-2), who allowed three runs on 10 hits in eight innings, including solo homers by Corey Patterson and Moises Alou.
St. Louis pulled away in the eighth after manager Tony La Russa was ejected for arguing the strike zone with plate umpire Mike Winters.
After Zambrano fell behind J.D. Drew 3-0, Drew threw down his bat and started for first on the next two pitches, both of which were called strikes. La Russa burst out of the dugout after the second called strike and was promptly thumbed.
After the commotion died down, Drew got back into the box and launched Zambrano's 3-2 pitch over the wall in right-center to make it 5-3.
"That's the game of baseball," Drew said. "You never know what's going to happen. I just got back in the box and was thinking of putting a good swing on the ball. Those were two pretty tough pitches on 3-0, both called strikes, and I just had to refocus."
St. Louis added another run. Baker had let Zambrano bat for himself to lead off the seventh inning with the Cubs trailing 4-3, an unconventional move that Baker made with the schedule in mind.
"I thought he had enough [left]," Baker said. "He's going to learn to go deep in these games. His pitch count was like 80 and we were down by one run. The guys who were coming up the next inning, he had gotten them out pretty good.
"Plus we're in a 20-games-in-a-row streak. You start going through this bullpen early and by the mid part of this streak, you're not going to have any arms left."
Zambrano struck out, and Morris wound up striking out the side before Drew's home run in the eighth.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times