Kyle Hendricks followed another difficult first inning with one crisp finish.
Hendricks retired his last 17 batters, and the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-2 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of their weekend series.
Ben Zobrist and Anthony Rizzo homered as NL leading-Chicago moved 1 1/2 games ahead of second-place Milwaukee in the NL Central. Zobrist finished with four hits.
Hendricks (7-9) settled into a nice little groove after Marcell Ozuna's two-run homer in the first. The right-hander allowed four hits, struck out eight and walked none in seven innings.
"I just made a couple bad pitches in the first," Hendricks said. "After that, the mechanics settled in. The mindset was better and you saw the results."
It was Hendricks' second win in his last eight starts. He has yielded 59 runs this season — 21 in the opening inning.
"It bit him again," Chicago manager Joe Maddon said. "I know it's going to change at some point."
St. Louis had won three of four. John Gant (3-4) was charged with three runs, two earned, and four hits in 4 1/3 innings.
Zobrist, who also had four hits in a 7-2 win over St. Louis on July 21, drove Gant's seventh pitch of the game over the wall in right-center for his seventh homer. Rizzo tied it at 2 with his 15th homer in the third.
Chicago then went ahead to stay with three runs in the fifth, taking advantage of a key error by second baseman Yairo Munoz.
Zobrist's two-out double put runners on second and third before Munoz bobbled Jason Heyward's grounder, allowing Rizzo to score. Javier Baez followed with a two-run double.
"Our hustle was key in that inning," Chicago third baseman David Bote said. "It really changed the game."
Bote made a pair of nifty defensive plays that drew praise from Maddon
Pedro Strop pitched a perfect ninth for his fifth save in eight chances.
Ozuna's first-inning homer was his second in as many games. He hit a grand slam in Saturday's 6-2 win.
Ozuna said grabbing two of three over Chicago was a step in the right direction.
"When you win the series, it's important," Ozuna said.
The Cardinals have split eight games with the Cubs since the All-Star break.
"I think it showed us what we already knew," St. Louis interim manager Mike Shildt said. "That we can compete with anyone."
The start of the game was delayed 1 hour, 16 minutes due to rain.
HAMELS SET TO GO
Cole Hamels (5-9, 4.72 ERA) will make his Cubs debut on Wednesday. He is slated to start the second game of a two-game set in Pittsburgh against right-hander Nick Kingham (5-5, 4.80 ERA).
Hamels was acquired in a trade with Texas on Friday. Hamels, a four-time All-Star, is 152-111 with a 3.43 ERA in 383 appearances over 13 seasons with Philadelphia and Texas.
"I think he's going to bring a lot of energy," Hendricks said. "Seeing something new out there, he's going to lift all of us up a little bit. We can learn from him, he's been around."
Cubs: RHP Anthony Bass will throw a bullpen session in Pittsburgh over the next few days. Bass was placed on the 10-day disabled list on July 21 with a strain on the right side of his back
Cardinals: INF/OF Jose Martinez was scratched due to soreness in his right ankle. "It just felt like his mobility was a little bit limited," Shildt. "So we'll take it day by day."
Cubs: LHP Jon Lester (12-3, 3.06 ERA) will face RHP Jameson Taillon (7-7, 3.73 ERA) on Tuesday in Pittsburgh. The Cubs are 17-4 in Lester's 21 starts this season.
Cardinals: RHP Carlos Martinez (6-6, 3.39 ERA) will take on LHP Tyler Anderson (6-3, 3.57 ERA) in the first of a four-game series at home against Colorado on Monday. Martinez will be making his first appearance since being placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right oblique strain on July 20.