CHICAGO -- Felipe Lopez hit a game-winning home run in the top of the 11th, smacking Ryan Schlitter's offering into the right-field seats to give the Cardinals a dramatic 4-3 win on Sunday night at Wrigley Field.
Dennys Reyes came in to face Kosuke Fukudome with a runner on second and two outs in the bottom of the frame. Reyes got Fukudome to swing through strike three in the dirt to earn his first save of the season.
Those weren't the only dramatic moment of the game, though -- supporters for each side sweated through some tense moments in the 10th, as both teams loaded the bases.
First, the Cardinals got three consecutive singles -- the last of which hung up too long for Matt Holliday, the runner on second, to get a good jump and score on the play.
In stepped Yadier Molina, who grounded into his second double play of the game to summarily end the Cardinals' threat.
The Cubs seemed to be rejuvenated by getting out of the inning unscathed, as they used a couple Cardinals miscues to load the bases with All-Star Marlon Byrd coming to bat. The Cubs faithful had visions of a sweep dancing before their eyes in Wrigley. So did the team, but Byrd struck out.
"You want it -- we were in position to do it," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "We won a series, but when you're behind like we are, it would've been much nicer to win all three."
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was not ready to throw in the towel, though.
"We've been around too long, you know," La Russa said. "We all know, 'Let's just play this thing out. Let's just play as hard as we can.' And we're good enough to have a lot of good things happen, and every once in a while something bad happens. You just have to hang with it."
As it stands, the Cardinals were able to stave off what would have been a disappointing sweep at the hands of the fourth-place and bitter rival Cubs.
"Huge win for us," Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter said. "We had a couple days, yesterday and the day before, where we needed to get some wins and fortunately tonight we continued to battle. It's a nice win going into an off-day."
That win, in large part, can be attributed to Lopez's clutch home run, as he roped the 3-2 pitch into the seats to put the Cards in control of the ballgame.
"[With the] 3-2 count, I was just trying to get on base," Lopez said. "That's what I was thinking about, getting on base. I felt confident and he threw a fastball and I put a good swing on it."
Lopez had not hit a ball out of the infield all series, and came in with an 0-for-9 streak, but he did not let that weigh on him going into that final at-bat.
"I don't worry about that," Lopez said. "I hit the ball hard today. It felt good, that's all that matters. As long as I feel good I can go out there and be confident."
Ryan Franklin also deserves a fair bit of credit. In each of his two innings, the winning run was able to get into scoring position, but Franklin did not give up what would have been a key hit for the Cubs. He also earned the win because of Lopez's heroics.
"Carpenter and the bullpen kept us in the game and gave me the opportunity to have that last at-bat, put me in that position," Lopez said. "They really pulled through. Everybody really did a great job."
The game was tied on Albert Pujols' sixth-inning home run, which snapped a rare 0-for-12 slump for Pujols.
"What he does is, the offense has been struggling, so he's expanded his strike zone," La Russa said. "If he was thinking about himself, he'd maybe be hitting 20 points higher, but he wouldn't have all the production. He is such a great, winning player."
The Cards jumped out to an early lead in the second inning, when center fielder Jon Jay led off the inning with a triple over the head of Byrd, and he was driven in on the next at-bat with Schumaker's RBI single.
Schumaker himself came around to score on Brendan Ryan's two-out single in the frame.
The Cubs tied the game at 2 in the fifth, when Geovany Soto scored on Ryan Theriot's triple to center field. The Cubs took the lead two batters later on Starlin Castro's single.
Carpenter got into an argument with home-plate umpire Bob Davidson after Soto was awarded first on a walk, and four pitches later, Theriot smacked his triple.
Afterward, Carpenter blamed his own inability to get the leadoff man out for his temper flair.
"I think the first four or five innings, or whatever inning it was," Carpenter said. "It's like, leadoff guy, leadoff guy, leadoff guy -- couldn't get that leadoff guy out. I started getting myself right at the get-go of each inning, so I was upset about that."
After that, when asked about Davidson's strike zone, Carpenter quickly responded, "I thought he did a nice job."
With the win and Cincinnati's loss, the Cardinals leave the Windy City still clinging to first place, a half-game ahead of the Reds, and 10 games ahead of the Cubs.
Louie Horvath is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.