The Chicago Cubs ended their road trip on a positive note. 

They may have been out of contention for a while, but playing the spoiler rule is still fun, especially with six more weeks of baseball left in the regular season. 

They lost to the San Francisco Giants three games out of four earlier this week.  But against the Cardinals, their biggest rival, they made sure to get the spoiler job done.

In today’s rubber game, they beat the Cardinals 9-7 to take the three-game series.  With the loss, the Cardinals slide down to second position in the NL Central standings, with a game behind the Cincinnati Reds.

The Cubs got help from both their offense and starting pitcher.  They had a six-run fourth inning and Derrek Lee hit a pair of home runs.  Ryan Dempster, the starter of the day, limited the Cardinals to minimal damage.

Dempster (11-8) had a strong performance today.  He conceded only two runs to the Cardinals.  One of them was Albert Pujols’s 30th home run of the year in the first inning.

In 6.2 innings pitched, he has not allowed more than one runner in an inning, except the fifth in which he gave up the Cardinals’ second run.  He retired six Cardinals by strikeouts, the most in his last seven outings, and only issued two walks. 

He is on a three-game winning streak and gave up only three earned runs in 19.1 innings pitched.

The Cubs scored the first run of the game.  In the first frame, facing Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse (1-5), Lee had a solo shot to center field for his 15th home run of the season.

His 16th of the year came two innings later.  With two outs, he sent Lohse’s pitch to center field again.  Lee finished this series with four home runs.  But he left the game in the fifth inning; reports said that he has hurt his back.

The Cubs’ six-run fourth inning has knocked down Lohse.  The frame started with back-to-back singles from Marlon Byrd and Xavier Nady.  Blake DeWitt then walked on five pitches.  Koyie Hill hit a ground-rule double to right-center field to bring home Byrd and Nady.    

Dempster helped himself with a single that drove in DeWitt for the Cubs’ third run of the inning.  Lohse was replaced by Mike MacDougal who gave up a double to Kosuke Fukudome to score Hill.  His wild pitch to Starlin Castro allowed Dempster to come in from third.  Fukudome scored on Byrd’s single to complete a six-run fourth inning. 

The Cubs batted around with 11 batters presented at the plate to take a 8-1 lead.

They added their ninth run in the eighth.  Tyler Colvin doubled off Dennys Reyes and scored on Aramis Ramirez’s RBI single.

The Cardinals rallied but fell short at the end.  However, they still put seven runs on the scoreboard in the final inning.

Rookie Steven Hill had his first major league home run off Marcos Mateo.  Nick Stavinoha and Aaron Miles followed with back-to-back singles. Brendan Ryan walked to load the bases. 

Mateo was replaced by James Russell who managed to strike out Skip Schumaker but gave up a walk to Jon Jay for the Cardinals’ second run of the inning.

In a save situation, closer Carlos Marmol came in to face Felipe Lopez whose pinch-hit single drove in the Cardinals’ third and fourth runs of the inning.  He walked Randy Winn and also allowed Jay to score on Allen Craig’s groundout. 

But he finally retired Hill, the 10th batter of the inning, to get his 21st save of the year.

The Cubs finished the seven-game road trip with three wins.  They will come home to face another team in pennant race, the San Diego Padres, starting Monday.

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