Heavy rain blanketed Chicago all morning, forcing Cubs manager Lou Piniella to scratch starter Carlos Zambrano, but it stopped in time for the game to start only an hour behind schedule. The Cubs waited a bit to make their comeback as well, responding with their third straight come-from-behind win, 6-4, over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
With their three wins over the NL West leaders, the Cubs are now in first place in the NL Central after St. Louis lost to Milwaukee, 5-3, on Sunday.
"Pitching, defense, everything clicked well this weekend," Piniella said. "We started out the homestand the right way."
Arizona knocked the Cubs out of the playoffs last season, finishing up a three-game sweep at Wrigley Field in the NL Division Series, and the young club hasn't slowed down this year. The D-backs came in with the most wins and the most runs in baseball, but were outscored, 16-7, in the series by the new scoring leader, the Cubs, who have 211 runs.
"It was a little bit of payback," Daryle Ward said.
Ward should know -- he did a lot of the damage this weekend. His pinch-hit double in the eighth was the game-winner on Sunday, scoring two runs to break a 4-4 tie. Ward was 0-for-14 off the bench before hitting a game-tying single on Saturday.
Reed Johnson tied the game with a two-run homer, his first of the season, in the seventh. Johnson, too, had been slumping; he was 3-for-24 this month before Sunday.
"You see that with a lot with good teams," Johnson said. "Different guys come up big at the plate every night or a different pitcher produces."
Sean Gallagher got the nod in place of Zambrano. The rookie, just up from Triple-A, was told he was starting about an hour before the game. He responded with 4 1/3 innings, pitching pretty well until getting knocked around in the fifth. He gave up an RBI triple in the first but settled down to strike out six.
Gallagher said pitching coach Larry Rothschild surprised him with the news in the clubhouse.
"I didn't let it hit me until I went to do my work outside about a half-hour before the game," he said. "Then I looked up and realized I was starting and the nerves started to hit me."
With Zambrano now starting Monday against San Diego, Piniella said the 22-year-old Gallagher is likely to remain in the rotation and start Friday against Pittsburgh. That means Jon Lieber is probably the odd man out and will return to the bullpen. Jason Marquis will go Tuesday, pushed back from Monday, and Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster stay on schedule to finish the San Diego series.
Gallagher made eight relief appearances with the Cubs last year and was 2-2 with a 3.10 ERA as a starter in Triple-A Iowa this season. Piniella is keen on using Gallagher because he's already stretched out to start.
"I'm not exactly sure," Piniella said of his decision. "I want to talk to my pitching coach. But I think that we'll probably keep him in that rotation and probably Lieber stays in the bullpen."
Piniella scrambled his lineup after Randy Johnson was scratched to start for the D-backs before the game, inserting his left-handed hitters back in to face right-hander Edgar Gonzalez. One important move was putting Reed Johnson back at leadoff from the eighth spot, replacing Alfonso Soriano, who also didn't start because of the bad weather.
The Cubs trailed, 4-2, after Gallagher's replacement, Chad Fox, walked in two of Gallagher's runs in the fifth.
Juan Cruz walked Mike Fontenot with one out in the seventh, and Johnson took a 2-1 pitch deep in the stands in left-center to tie the game.
"I tell you what, he smoked that," Piniella said. "That was up there in [Derrek] Lee territory."
Aramis Ramirez singled to start the eighth and stole second on a botched hit-and-run with Kosuke Fukudome. The Japanese sensation then laid down a perfect bunt toward third for a single. Geovany Soto's swinging bunt moved them over and Piniella inserted Soriano as a pinch-hitter. With no one up in the bullpen, Tony Pena intentionally walked Soriano to load the bases for Ward.
After his self-described one-minute stroll to the plate, Ward smoked Pena's first pitch to the gap in right-center and came out for a pinch-runner to cheers from the chilled crowd of 39,740.
Ward said he's fighting through a knot in his right lower back and walked on the treadmill for four innings to loosen it up. Still, he came up ready to hit.
"I wanted to jump on the first-pitch fastball, if that's what he was going to give to me," Ward said. "He couldn't have thrown it more down the middle than that. As a pinch-hitter, if you see a pitch down the middle you've got to swing."
Carlos Marmol (1-0) pitched the eighth and picked up the win. Kerry Wood needed just nine pitches to get his seventh save.
Lee hit a solo homer in the third to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead. It was his 10th of the season in only his 37th game. Last season, it took him until July 28 to get No. 10, a span of 92 games.
Mark DeRosa had scored on a wild pitch from Gonzalez in the second to tie it at 1.
Jon Greenberg is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.