Lee hit a tiebreaking solo homer in the eighth inning to lead the Cubs to a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday.
One day after saying he would break off negotiations for a contract extension until the offseason, Lee softened his stance before the game, but made the big statement with the homer in the eighth. Lee would be one of the most attractive free agents on the open market, but he has said he wants to remain in Chicago.
"This guy has emerged as one of the greats in this game," manager Dusty Baker said.
Michael Barrett had a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the seventh for the Cubs, who couldn't get anything going against NL Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter. The right-hander struck out nine in six shutout innings, allowing four hits and one walk.
"I was glad he (Carpenter) was out of the game when I did have to pinch hit, to be honest with you," Barrett said. "I was watching him in the clubhouse, he was just hitting both sides of the plate."
Besides attacking both sides of the plate, Carpenter had all of his pitches working.
"I had pretty good sink on my fastball, my cutter was good, my breaking ball was good. I threw some real good changeups today. I got through that first (inning) and made pretty good pitches all day," Carpenter said.
Lee, who homered on Friday in the Cubs' home opener, greeted Cardinals reliever Brad Thompson (1-1) with a drive leading off the eighth. Lee's homer left Wrigley Field and landed on Waveland Avenue despite the wind blowing in.
Trailing 2-0 in the seventh, the Cubs took advantage of the Cardinals bullpen. Matt Murton led off with a single off Josh Hancock. One out later, Barrett, pinch-hitting for Henry Blanco, hit Hancock's 3-1 pitch into the left-field bleachers to tie it at 2-2. It was Barrett's second pinch-hit homer of his career.
"I'll be thinking about it, but I want the ball again," said Hancock. "I just got behind him and he was looking fastball. I gave him a fastball to hit. The location was off, I didn't get ahead. I just didn't pitch today. I was trying to get it low, trying to put him on the ground. If he was going to get a swing on it, I wanted him to swing and hit it down."
Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano struggled on opening day, but settled down against the Cardinals. Zambrano coasted through the first five innings, but ran into trouble in sixth because of two key errors made behind him.
Zambrano walked Jim Edmonds with two outs in the sixth. During Scott Rolen's at-bat, Zambrano caught Edmonds jumping too early to second. Zambrano threw over to Derrek Lee at first, but Lee missed the throw and Edmonds advanced to third.
"I felt horrible about missing the ball. (Zambrano) threw it right at my chest and I just whiffed it. When the pitcher is pitching that well you don't want to make a mistake, then Michael Barrett picked us up with the big home run, so it felt good to hit the home run and put us back in the lead," Lee said.
Zambrano allowed two unearned runs in six innings and had five strikeouts. He gave up four hits and walked four.
"Boy, that was a great comeback victory, especially after we kind of gave it to them in the (sixth) inning with those two runs," Baker said.
- Cubs general manager Jim Hendry agreed on a two-year contract extension through the 2008 season. One of his career highlights was trading for Lee in Nov. 2003.
- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa got LF John Rodriguez in the lineup despite a sore left shoulder. Rodriguez entered the game 4-for-10 against Zambrano and went 2-for-3 against the Cubs starter on the day.