CHICAGO -- Darwin Barney's errorless streak continued Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field. So, too, did his penchant for hitting clutch home runs.
The Cubs second baseman hit a game-tying two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth and David DeJesus later drove in the game-winning run in the 11th for a 5-4 walk-off win over the Cardinals.
The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Cubs and also shrunk the Cardinals' playoff hopes in one regard -- if the Reds win Friday night, Cincinnati clinches the National League Central title. The Cardinals saw their lead for the second NL Wild Card spot shrink to two games thanks, in part, to Barney's seventh homer of the season.
"It seems like when he hits them, they're big home runs," Cubs manager Dale Sveum.
That's because that's precisely what happens. Two of Barney's blasts have tied the game, two have given the Cubs the lead, one has extended a lead and another has been a walk-off.
On Friday, with DeJesus on base after a two-out hit of his own and the count at 1-2 against Fernando Salas, Barney wasn't thinking about replicating those feats. Instead, he just wanted to bring the big dog to the plate.
"I'm just trying to get [first baseman Anthony] Rizzo up," Barney said. "That's my job, is to get those 3-4-5 guys up there, to move runners along."
Instead, Barney drilled Salas' 1-2 changeup into the left-center field stands.
"I threw the pitch that I wanted," Salas said. "He made good contact."
Carlos Marmol and Alberto Cabrera (1-1) each worked a scoreless inning in extras before Welington Castillo began the 11th with a single off Cardinals righty Joe Kelly (5-7) before being replaced by pinch-runner Brett Jackson. Jackson advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and to third on a flyout before DeJesus knocked Kelly's 0-2 pitch through the right side of the infield.
The normal back-end duo of the Cardinals' bullpen -- Mitchell Boggs and closer Jason Motte -- was unavailable Friday because of a recent heavy workload.
"I wanted to get it way off the plate or down -- I was going way off the plate -- and left it more on the corner in the middle," Kelly said. "He was able to yank it."
The win puts Chicago at 59-92 with 11 games to play. The Cubs' magic number to avoid their stated goal of finishing with fewer than 100 losses is four.
"That's a big game for us to get closer to our goal and to knock somebody possibly out of the playoffs because of a big comeback win," Sveum said.
The Cubs' comeback negated Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma's steal of home in the fourth inning, which broke a 2-2 tie. Kozma led off with a triple, and second baseman Daniel Descalso squared to bunt.
Descalso missed and the ball bounced off Castillo's mitt. Kozma, who already was running, scored the go-ahead run, and the the Cardinals added another run in the eighth on an RBI double by Descalso.
Neither starter was especially effective. Chicago's Chris Volstad allowed three runs in five innings while Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter -- making his 2012 debut after undergoing major surgery in July -- allowed two runs in five.
One of those runs was an RBI double by Alfonso Soriano, who matched his career high of 104 by driving in Barney, who previously had driven in DeJesus with a single up the middle. Barney hasn't been as consistent at the plate as in the field this season, but he's been hot as of late. The second baseman has recorded a hit in 15 of his last 16 games while batting .373 in that stretch.
"Obviously, feel like there's some times I've gone through periods of adjustments and not really helping the offense out at times," Barney said. "But it's one of those things where we're working on finding an approach I can stick with, take into the offseason and work on it and hopefully come in and stick with one thing next year."
Playing in drizzling conditions for most of the day and with a game-time temperature of 59 degrees, there were a couple of defensive gaffes Friday, including a misjudged fly by DeJesus and a ball that got by Dave Sappelt in right-center.
Barney's homer also nearly led to his first error in 135 games when St. Louis' Matt Carpenter grounded out to the right side in the top of the 10th. Barney was there, spun and threw too quickly to first from behind the bag. The throw was wide and low to Rizzo's right, but the first baseman snagged it, fell to the ground and tagged the base with his toe.
When the game ended, Barney's errorless streak was at 136 -- five away from tying the Major League position record held by Placido Polanco.
"I don't know what I'm going to get him, but I'm going to get him something," Barney said of Rizzo.
Clutch homers, like Barney's on Friday, should continue to be fine.