The Cubs have a 12 1/2-game gap in the National League Central and 109 games to try and close it.
Not according to manager Dusty Baker.
"You want to win 10 in a row, but you don't have to win 10 in a row," Baker said before Friday's game. "You want to win series. Just keep winning series, and hopefully slow-walk your way to the top."
Slow-walking may have been an inappropriate analogy, considering Baker's team is dead last in the league in walks taken, while leading the league in walks issued.
But the Cubs began their journey in earnest Friday night, beating the Cardinals 5-4 in 14 innings before 45,799 at Busch Stadium.
Juan Pierre opened the 14th with a double to left field, went to third on Neifi Perez's sacrifice bunt, and after Michael Barrett was walked intentionally by Josh Hancock, Todd Walker slapped a ground ball to Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols to score Pierre.
Ryan Dempster got the win with 1 1/3 innings of relief, helped by a diving catch by right fielder John Mabry in the 14th.
Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen went from hero to goat in two innings, helping to send the game into extra innings.
Rolen gave St. Louis a one-run lead in the seventh with a two-run double off Bob Howry, then gave the runs right back in the ninth, letting Todd Walker's grounder go through his legs with the bases loaded and one out.
Two runs scored on the error and the Cubs had battled back to forge a 4-4 tie.
What began as a pitchers' duel ended with a flurry of late-inning rallies.
The game was scoreless in the fifth and the Cubs had already hit into three double plays when Jacque Jones led off with his 10th home run.
They added another run in the inning off Sidney Ponson when Ronny Cedeno barely beat a throw to the plate from center fielder So Taguchi on Pierre's two-out single up the middle, making it 2-0.
But after the Cardinals scored off Sean Marshall in the sixth to make it 2-1, the Cubs blew a prime scoring opportunity in the seventh when Cedeno was picked off third base with one out.
Reliever Randy Flores threw to first to check Pierre, and when Pujols noticed Cedeno looking to go home, he rifled a throw to third and caught Cedeno sliding back into the base.
Rolen's bases-loaded double off Howry in the seventh, coming after an intentional walk to Pujols that loaded the bases, gave the Cardinals their first lead of the night.
Trailing 3-2 in the eighth, the Cubs loaded the bases with one out before Cedeno grounded into their fourth double play.
The Cardinals added an insurance run off Scott Williamson in the bottom of the inning, making it 4-2 before closer Jason Isringhausen loaded the bases on a hit and back-to-back walks, paving the way for Rolen's crucial error.
The Cubs' offense has taken a beating since Derrek Lee's injury, and rightly so, but the pitching staff has been just as guilty of underachieving.
The Cubs went into Friday night's game with a 5.46 earned-run average since Lee was hurt.
But Marshall pitched 6 1/3 strong innings, leaving with a 2-1 lead before Howry gave-coughed it up.
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