ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Brendan Ryan hit an outfielder-assisted homer Saturday and singled in the winning run in the ninth inning, lifting St. Louis to a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs that reduced the Cardinals' magic number for clinching the NL Central to four.
The Cardinals beat the Cubs in the ninth inning for the second straight game, this time prevailing after Ryan Franklin's third blown save in his last five appearances. Franklin (4-3) allowed two hits and a tying sacrifice fly to Jeff Baker in the ninth.
Chris Carpenter threw eight crisp innings for St. Louis after getting an extra day of rest. Carpenter was coming off a shaky start against Atlanta that ended his 13-start unbeaten streak.
St. Louis had three singles off Carlos Marmol (2-4) in the ninth and Ryan's liner to left with runners on first and third was his third hit of the game.
Left fielder Bobby Scales had Ryan's drive in his glove in the fifth as he banged into the 8-foot-high fence. But it popped out and over for Ryan's third homer of the season and the Cardinals' only run off Ryan Dempster. It appeared the ball probably would've hit the top of the fence on its own, and Scales slapped his glove against his knee and kicked the air in frustration after the play.
Scales had two other adventures, neither of which cost the Cubs. He misplayed Carpenter's hit down the line in the seventh, then slipped and fell as the pitcher took an extra base for a two-out double. He went to his knees to snare Matt Holliday's liner to end the eighth.
Ryan and Skip Schumaker had two hits apiece for the Cardinals, seeking a return to the postseason after a two-year absence. They've taken a pair of one-run decisions in the first two games of a three-game series against the second-place Cubs, shaking off a 1-5 stretch.
The Cubs loaded the bases before Derrek Lee flied out to end the fifth and had runners in scoring position in the three innings prior to that threat.
Chicago threatened again in the eighth on singles by Ryan Theriot and Lee that put runners on first and third with one out, but Aramis Ramirez grounded into a double play.
Dempster allowed eight hits in eight innings, topping 1,600 career innings in the process. He struck out six, including the 4-5-6 hitters in order in the sixth, and lost for only the second time in his last six starts.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)