ST. LOUIS—It may be too early to make any rational generalizations about the Cubs, but it appears as though they're much better mudders than the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cubs beat St. Louis 4-2 under dank and dismal conditions at Busch Stadium on Saturday night, slopping their way to victory on the strength of Matt Clement's pitching and Aramis Ramirez's three-run homer.
With rain falling most of the night and a game-time temperature of 49 degrees, the Cubs drew even in the four-game series and won for only the sixth time in 32 games at Busch dating back to 2000.
Clement continued his sizzling start, allowing one first inning run before shutting down the Cardinals for the next seven innings to earn his fourth straight victory and first career triumph against St. Louis. He shrugged off the steady downpour, allowing one run on five hits in eight innings while striking out five and inducing three double-play grounders.
"It seems like I always pitch in the rain anyways," Clement said.
Over his last four starts, Clement (4-1) has compiled a 0.95 earned-run average and allowed only 13 hits while striking out 31 batters in 281/3 innings. His poor spring training performance is just a fading memory.
"That has been answered," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "It shows you what spring training meansnothing."
Closer Joe Borowski endured another seat-of-his-pants ninth, giving up a two-out, RBI single to Edgar Rentaria before striking out Reggie Sanders with the tying runs on base for his sixth save.
The Cubs came into the night hitting .208 on the current trip while losing three of the first four games. Cardinals right-hander Jeff Suppan (2-3) held them hitless for 31/3 innings before things began to fall into place in the fourth.
Trailing 1-0 with one out, Sammy Sosa walked and Moises Alou followed with the first Cubs hit of the night. Ramirez, who was mired in a 2-for-17 slump on the trip, ripped into Suppan's first-pitch fastball and planted it deep into the Cardinals bullpen for a 410-foot, three-run homer, his seventh of the season.
All of a sudden, thousands of Cubs fans in the sellout crowd of 49,505 decided to make their presence known, screaming and chanting at the top of their lungs.
It was a huge departure from Friday night, when Cardinals fans made so much noise in the ninth inning it seemed to unnerve the Cubs relief corps, who walked four batters in the inning to give the game away in stunning fashion.
After Ramirez's home run put the Cubs on top, Clement continued his command performance. Following Jim Edmonds' one-out double and a hit batter, Clement got Edgar Rentaria to bounce into a 6-3 double play. Clement retired the side in order in the fifth and seventh innings and got Tony Womack to ground into another double play to end the eighth, pumping his fist as he departed.
Alex Gonzalez's RBI single off Josh Pearce in the ninth made it 4-1, leaving it up to Borowski.
After Friday's difficult, one-run loss when LaTroy Hawkins issued a bases-loaded walk in the ninth, the Cubs badly needed to make a statement Saturday night, no matter what the calendar said.
"That was some game," Baker said, "All the way to the last out."