Henry Blanco has spent more time on the bench than a Supreme Court justice this summer, getting into only five games during July.
But all that watching and waiting hasn't embittered the Cubs' backup catcher, and after his run-scoring single in the 11th inning Friday gave the Cubs a 3-2 victory over St. Louis at Wrigley Field, Blanco said he has learned to deal with the lack of playing time.
"I know what my role is," Blanco said. "I know what my job is. And the young kid here ( Geovany Soto) is doing a great job. I just have to stay ready, and when they need me I'll be ready to do my job."
The Cubs needed Blanco on Friday and he delivered in a big way, giving the Cubs their 10th victory in 12 games and pushing the third-place Cardinals seven games back in the National League Central.
Jim Edmonds' two solo home runs against his former team, including a game-tying, opposite-field blast into the wind in the seventh, put the Cubs in position to win.
Derrek Lee opened the 11th with a walk against Ryan Franklin. After Aramis Ramirez sent Lee to third with a hit-and-run single to right field on a 3-2 pitch, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa opted to intentionally walk Kosuke Fukudome, who was 3-for-22 on the homestand.
Blanco, who entered the game in the 10th after Soto was removed for a pinch-runner in the ninth, came through with a line drive over shortstop Cesar Izturis that sent most of the crowd of 41,539 home happy.
It was Blanco's seventh RBI of the season, three fewer than pitcher Carlos Zambrano.
"Yeah, I wanted to hit a grand slam there," Blanco said with a laugh.
The Cubs improved to 44-16 at Wrigley Field, tying last year's number of home victories with 21 games remaining. They're feeling invincible at the Friendly Confines, and everyone seems to be getting an opportunity to play hero in the late innings.
Although the Cubs would have been happy to win no matter who came up with the big hit, the players were especially happy for Blanco, who has been somewhat of a forgotten man since Soto's rise to prominence.
"I'll tell you, it's great to see him involved, too," Ted Lilly said after pitching 71/3 strong innings but getting no decision. "He's such an underrated asset on this ballclub. He helps us in a lot of different ways, not only working with Geo all year, but just the energy he brings to the clubhouse every day."
Edmonds got the Cubs an early lead in the third inning with a home run off Braden Looper, admiring his shot and flipping his bat toward the Cardinals' dugout before going on his home run trot. Edmonds said he had too much pine tar in his hand and didn't realize he had flipped his bat.
Told he seemed to enjoy watching it, Edmonds said: "That's what it's all about. Having fun. The guy pitching over there is a great friend of mine. It's just competition. That's all I look at it as. I can't say enough about the guys on that team. Those guys over there are like brothers to me."
St. Louis scored in the third and sixth to take a 2-1 lead, but Alfonso Soriano limited the damage by throwing Joe Mather out at the plate after catching Troy Glaus' fly ball to medium-deep left field for a double play that ended the sixth.
Edmonds then hit a second shot off his friend Looper to tie the game 2-2 in the seventh. Carlos Marmol bailed Lilly out of a jam in the eighth, and Jeff Samardzija and Bob Howry combined for three shutout innings before Blanco won it in the 11th.
"When you throw two good teams out there in this kind of a rivalry at this park, you never know what's going to happen," Edmonds said. "Somehow, they're always good games."