Grand finale: Cubs rock Cards to sweep

Cubs rock Cards to sweep

CHICAGO -- Imagine having a tornado drop a large tree into your living room, then having to face St. Louis closer Jason Isringhausen with the game on the line.

That's the kind of nightmarish, dream-like weekend Michael Barrett had.

On Friday, in the Chicago Cubs' home opener, Barrett caught Greg Maddux, who pitched masterfully for the win. On Saturday, he hit a game-tying pinch-hit home run against the St. Louis Cardinals. He topped that Sunday night when he belted his second career grand slam in the eighth inning to help post an 8-4 win and sweep the series.

And Barrett did so after learning that a tree had crashed into his living room Friday in his Alpharetta, Ga., home, because of a tornado that ripped through the neighborhood.

Isringhausen (0-1) came into the game with none out and one on, and walked both Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez, neither intentionally, to set up Barrett's blast, which cleared the left-field bleachers.

"I've never seen him that wild," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of Isringhausen, who had 39 saves last season. "Anybody is capable of losing their control. He doesn't lose it that often. I don't think I've seen him blow one ever. We'll just take it and savor it."

Barrett wasn't thinking home run or even extra-base hit, or even about his upcoming remodeling bill.

"As good as his stuff is, I'm not thinking anything but try to put a good swing on it, and I just ran into one," he said. "When [Isringhausen] loaded the bases like that and I came up to hit, and the first pitch he laid in for a strike, I thought, 'Here we go, he's back on track.' I expected him coming at me with his best stuff, and he did.

"The last pitch there, I know it's not where he wanted it because it was a little more of the plate," Barrett said. "I think because I wasn't trying to do anything but put a good swing on the ball, that's why the ball jumped out."

It's the first time the Cubs have swept the Cardinals at Wrigley Field since June 5-7, 2001, and it served as career win No. 1,110 for Baker.

But Barrett couldn't really celebrate.

"I had a tree fall through my house because of a tornado back home," Barrett said. "It's been bittersweet in a weird way. As far as baseball goes, it's been magical.

"There are 180 homes in our development, and it happened to find us," Barrett said. "I think God was faithful in that we weren't in the house and everything's OK. I had probably the best baseball weekend of my life."

When did he find out the news from home?

"My parents hid it from me until [Saturday night]," he said. "It was great [weekend] other than that."

"I had a tree fall through my house because of a tornado back home. It's been bittersweet in a weird way. As far as baseball goes, it's been magical."
-- Michael Barrett

Sunday marked the Major League debut of Sean Marshall, who did not get a decision but at least could celebrate a win. Marshall gave up four runs on four hits and one walk over 4 1/3 innings while striking out two. The 23-year-old left-hander had made 44 Minor League starts, including 10 at the Double-A level.

A 6-foot-7 lefty, Marshall impressed the Cubs with his poise this spring -- and the fact that he had good command of three pitches. His family was in the Wrigley Field crowd of 39,839, including his twin brother, Brian, who has battled some shoulder problems and was recently released by the Red Sox.

Marshall needed four pitches to retire the first two hitters of the game, and then he walked Albert Pujols. Scott Rolen drove a 3-2 pitch to left, his second homer of the season, to put the Cards ahead, 2-0.

With two out in the Cubs' fourth, Ramirez and Barrett both singled. Jacque Jones then ended an 0-for-13 start to the season with his first hit and first home run as a Cub, launching a 3-2 pitch from Sidney Ponson to center field to give the Cubs a 3-2 lead.

"It's just a relief to get my first hit out of the way," Jones said.

The fans in the right-field bleachers saluted him when he took the field in the fifth.

"I was getting booed [Saturday], when I was the worst player in the league," said Jones, who struck out three times that day. "Now, I hit a home run and I'm the best player. I'm just going to play hard and whatever happens, happens."

St. Louis loaded the bases in the fifth when So Taguchi doubled, Hector Luna singled and David Eckstein was hit by a pitch. Marshall was pulled, and Michael Wuertz struck out Juan Encarnacion, but Pujols hit a two-run single to provide a 4-3 lead.

Before the game, Baker said he planned to leave Marshall alone.

"You let him be himself and try not to put any more pressure on him," Baker said.

It seemed to work. Facing the defending NL Central Division champs and the 2005 MVP is a tough first test.

"It was very exciting -- a once-in-a-lifetime experience, for sure," Marshall said. "I'm glad to get this one under my belt."

"I was really proud of him overall," Barrett said of Marshall. "I saw a lot of great things from the kid. Let's face it, he's a kid. He made huge strides today. When you look at the Cardinals lineup, it's not easy. I'm expecting a lot out of this guy now."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.