Ninth-inning two-out, two-run walkoff homer give Cubbies the win, seven game winning streak to bring them to ... .500.
What a meteoric way to reach mediocrity.
The Cubs on Friday became owners of a ho-hum 39-39 record, thanks to a sensational winning streak that was extended to seven games in most dramatic fashion.
Aramis Ramirez capped a three-run, ninth-inning rally with a two-out, two-run walkoff homer that gave the Cubs a 6-5 victory over National League Central-leading Milwaukee in front of a season-high crowd of 41,909 at Wrigley Field.
Yes, cynics and even Cubs manager Lou Piniella - who is trying to keep a level head - might dismiss the series against the Brewers as not too important because the Cubs still have 84 games left. But the North Siders had overcome an early 5-0 deficit, and their reaction to Ramirez’s heroics told a different story.
After the ball jumped off Ramirez’s bat and settled into the bleachers in left-center, the numerous Cubs who met and mobbed Ramirez at home plate jumped up and down as if someone had poured itching powder in their pants.
“If you’re a baseball player, you want to try to do that,” said Ramirez, who had struck out with two men on in the seventh. “You want to hit a walkoff. It doesn’t matter if it’s a home run or a base hit.”
Now that Ramirez’s 15th homer and the bullpen’s six scoreless innings have helped the Cubs get to .500 and close their gap behind the Brewers to 6∏ games, the Cubs are thinking big - as they were when the season started.
“I kept believing this team was way too good to be in the position we were in,” right fielder Cliff Floyd said in I-told-you-so fashion. “I wasn’t just trying to keep you all at bay, making you all believe something that wasn’t true. We honestly believed we were going to get better. And we are getting better.
“We’ve got a long way to go. It’s not even All-Star break yet.”
If the Cubs win today, it would give them their longest streak since they took a dozen in a row from May 19-June 2, 2001.
Milwaukee came to town having won 12 of its previous 14 games, and the Brewers put a five-spot on the board in the first inning against Rich Hill, the big blow being Kevin Mench’s three-run homer.
Hill threw 45 pitches in that inning, and Milwaukee fouled off 18 of them. Hill lasted just three innings for the second time in his last three outings, giving up five runs on five hits this time. He walked two, struck out five and threw 92 pitches in the process.
Meanwhile, heralded 21-year-old Brewers rookie Yovani Gallardo - 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in two previous major league starts - held the Cubs scoreless until the fourth. But Floyd’s RBI groundout to first scored Derrek Lee, and a Gallardo wild pitch sent Ramirez home to make it 5-2.
Gallardo struck out seven in his six innings. But the Cubs got to the bullpen for a run in the seventh and three in the ninth - the latter off closer Francisco Cordero (0-2), who had converted 27 of 29 save opportunities this season.
The Cubs’ Mike Fontenot had hits in both the seventh and the ninth and extended his hitting streak to 11 games. Lee had a sacrifice fly to make it 5-4 in the ninth just before Ramirez delivered his homer.
Meanwhile, Cubs relievers Billy Petrick, Michael Wuertz, Carlos Marmol and Bob Howry (5-4) had kept the Brewers off the board.
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