Baseball / Sports

3 home runs lift Cubs to 7-6 victory over Cardinals

CHICAGO -- Wrigley Field was packed with its largest crowd of the season -- 41,534 -- as the Cubs and Cardinals entertained in a traditional midsummer rivalry Friday.

That thousands of those fans were clad in red to support their National League Central contenders did not seem to faze the home team as the last-place Cubs emerged with a 7-6 victory in a seesaw contest.

"It was a nice crowd, buzzing all day," manager Rick Renteria said. "Even in batting practice, it was pretty neat."

Luis Valbuena delivered the final salvo, a two-run homer in the seventh inning to give the Cubs the lead for good.

"I was looking for a fastball to be aggressive," Valbuena said. "(Kevin Siegrist) threw me a first-pitch fastball."

Hector Rondon closed out the ninth for his 12th save, and Justin Grimm was credited with the victory after Travis Wood labored through a five-inning, 113-pitch start.

"I was doing the math in my head and calculating what my next move would be," Renteria said of Wood's tough start. "Fortunately I didn't have to do anything out of the ordinary."

Reliever Neil Ramirez got an important inning-ending strikeout of Matt Carpenter in the eighth with a runner on third.

Ryan Sweeney drove in four runs and hit a three-run homer to lead the Cubs' 11-hit attack.

The Friendly Confines have not been too kind to the Cubs lately. They are 7-13 in July and have gone 0-4-1 in their last five series at home.

"We've had a rough couple of weeks and just have to keep a positive attitude," Sweeney said.

The Cardinals, who have dropped four in a row, struck with three unearned runs in the first inning, helped mightily by errors from second baseman Arismendy Alcantara and left fielder Chris Coghlan.

Sweeney's three-run blast in the second inning tied the game 3-3. Sweeney drove in his fourth run in the third with a two-out single to give the Cubs a 4-3 lead. Wood helped his own cause when he blasted his third homer of the year to make it 5-3.

But the Cardinals tied it in the fifth on homers from Carpenter and Matt Holliday.

Oscar Taveras delivered a pinch RBI single off Wesley Wright in the sixth to put the Cardinals back on top 6-5.

Anthony Rizzo extended his hitting streak to a career-long 10 games with a third-inning single. And fellow All-Star Starlin Castro managed an infield hit. But it was the offense of Sweeney and Valbuena that made the biggest impact.

"Rizzo and Starlin have been generating a lot of the offense," Renteria said. "But a lot of guys have been chipping in here and there. You need to have that."

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