Former Chicago Cubs' general manager Jim Hendry walks through the concourse of Wrigley Field before a baseball game between the Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals Friday, Aug. 19, 2011 in Chicago. The Cubs fired Hendry after another disappointing season said assistant GM Randy Bush who will serve as interim general manager. Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said it was time for a "fresh approach in our baseball leadership and our search begins immediately." The 56-year-old Hendry was named general manager in July 2002. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Updated: August 20, 2011 9:20PM
For once, the Cubs gave Matt Garza a little support at Wrigley Field. Turned out he didn’t need much.
Garza pitched seven sharp innings, Aramis Ramirez homered and the Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-0 Saturday.
Garza (6-9) scattered five hits, struck out eight and won at home for the first time since June 27.
“Usually we don’t hit or the bullpen blows it up when he pitches, for some reason,” Ramirez said. “He’s pitching better than his record indicates.”
Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol finished off the shutout. Marmol earned his 29th save in 37 chances.
“With what Matt has been through this year with a lot of his starts, to see him pitch that well and get some run support made it even better for me,” Cubs manager Mike Quade said.
Garza had been solid at home lately with a 1.75 ERA in his previous five starts. But the Cubs had scored a total of just seven runs in those games, leaving him with an 0-2 record.
“I thought Garza was very good,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “I thought Edwin was too, he just had that one tough inning where he left a couple balls in the middle of the plate.”
“It wasn’t a fun day to be a hitter,” he said.
Ramirez’s two-run homer highlighted a three-run burst in the fourth off Edwin Jackson (2-2). Jackson allowed five hits in seven innings after leaving his last start with a right hamstring cramp.
“I came out aggressive from the beginning,” Jackson said. “It was just that one inning that I paid for a couple of balls left in the middle of the plate. That pretty much summed up the day.”
Early on, it looked as if it might be more of the same for Garza after Jackson held the Cubs hitless and faced the minimum through three innings. Things changed in the fourth as the Cubs hit for the cycle.
Starlin Castro led off with a single and Ramirez connected one out later for his 24th home run. Carlos Pena then tripled and Marlon Byrd doubled.
Ramirez’s homer was Chicago’s 29th in August, most in the majors and was his big league-leading 12th first-pitch shot this season.
“I’m Dominican,” Ramirez said. “We go out there and swing. We don’t walk much.”
The Cubs helped themselves by turning two double plays. Before the game, La Russa said his team’s propensity for hitting into DPs as “brutal.” St. Louis has hit into 136 double plays this season, by far the most in the majors.
“We’ve been talking about double plays all year,” St. Louis’ David Freese said. “We’ve hit into a lot of double plays and it kills rallies. Pretty simple.”
It was Jackson’s turn to be a hard-luck loser despite pitching effectively for the fourth time in five starts since he was traded to St. Louis. Jackson was making his first appearance in Chicago since being dealt by the crosstown White Sox on July 27.
Garza started slowly, allowing a leadoff double to John Jay in the first and later walking two batters to load the bases. That spurred Quade to come out for a quick chat.
“He just came out and said, ‘Hey,’” Garza said.
Garza recovered to get Freese on an inning-ending double play, the first of 10 straight batters he retired.
The attendance was announced at 42,374, up 31 from Friday’s gathering, which was the Cubs’ largest crowd since opening day in 1978.
It’s been a hectic stretch for the Cubs that has seen Friday’s firing of general manager Jim Hendry a few days after tempestuous pitcher Carlos Zambrano left the team during a game and ended up on the disqualified list.
Through it all, Garza has pitched well and the Cubs have played their best baseball of the season, winning 14 of 19.
“I got to come in and do my job,” Garza said. “I don’t want to be the next one out.”
NOTES: Quade said he hasn’t spoken to Zambrano since he left the team’s clubhouse in during a game Atlanta on Aug. 12, but expects to at some point. The Cubs have won five of seven games since Zambrano left the team. ... St. Louis OF Matt Holliday and SS Rafael Furcal were out of the lineup for what La Russa called a “mental and physical part day off.” Holliday entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh. ... Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan left the team and returned to St. Louis to attend to a personal matter. He is expected to rejoin the club when it returns home on Monday. Bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist will fill in for Duncan. ... St. Louis’ Lance Berkman, who entered August with 28 home runs, has gone homerless in 17 games so far this month. ... Chicago’s Rodrigo Lopez will face St. Louis’ Jake Westbrook in Sunday’s series finale. Lopez is 4-6 with a 6.44 ERA in eight career games against St. Louis. Westbrook has a 9.72 ERA in two starts against the Cubs this season.