The Cubs are back at .500 for the first time since May 1, following an 11-6 win over the Colorado Rockies on Sunday. Jeromy Burnitz smacked a three-run homer and Aramis Ramirez drove in four runs to power the Cubs in front of 40,322, the largest crowd of the season at Wrigley Field.
"You're starting fresh," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "Hopefully, we can get some distance between us and .500. The key thing is to keep winning series and keep inching closer."
The Cubs did take three out of four against the Rockies, and would like to keep that trend going.
"It's definitely big," Burnitz said about evening the record at 24-24. "It's a hurdle that basically a team like us so far has been on the brink of, and battling to get there. We'll see where it goes from there."
"When you're lingering under .500, it doesn't seem like you're having a good season," Chicago's Todd Walker said. "The main goal and purpose is to get to the playoffs."
Ramirez hit an RBI double in the third, a two-run homer in the fifth, and an RBI single in the sixth for his first four-RBI game since the season opener, April 4 against Arizona. He's still bothered by his back and groin, but said he's good enough to play. Ramirez just wishes it would warm up a little.
"I'm from an island and it's 75 [degrees] all year round," said the Dominican Republic native. "I'm not used to the cold weather. I'm used to warmer weather, not this cold."
"If Aramis swings the bat like he has the last few days, then it makes it tough on the pitcher," Chicago's Derrek Lee said. "That's when the lineup gets going and we can score some runs."
Lee knows a thing or two about swinging the bat well. He went 9-for-14 in the four-game series with two homers and seven RBIs, and now leads the National League with a .366 average.
"You've got to pitch to him sooner or later. Nobody likes to run from anybody," Baker said. "I've seen them pitch to Barry Bonds, I've seen them pitch to Hank Aaron, I've seen them pitch to everybody."
Lee is trying not to look at the NL leaderboard.
"You see it, but you try not to worry about it," Lee said. "I just prepare for the game. I think if you worry about the numbers then you get caught up in it."
The Cubs have had a lot of potential distractions this season with the injuries to Nomar Garciaparra, Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, among others.
Derrek Lee / 1B
Weight: 245 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
"We could easily have put our heads down and said, 'Why us? Why is this happening?'" Lee said. "There's a bunch of fighters in here. We're not going to stop. We're going to keep going."
It helps that the hitters responded to Baker's meeting about being more patient.
"We sat down and I think it opened some guys' eyes up -- maybe I'm not going about this the right way," Lee said. "The last three days have been good. Hitting is a lot about concentration. Maybe if you up your concentration, you'll get better results."
"[Baker] addressed the things that make sense, the things that we need to do as far as at-bats go," Burnitz said. "Give him credit. The last couple days we've had some better at-bats and put up some offense, so it worked."
Walker added a pinch-hit home run with one out in the Cubs' seventh to help Roberto Novoa (1-1) pick up the win in relief. Novoa got the lineup card as a souvenir from Baker.
JD Closser belted a two-run homer and Luis Gonzalez and Preston Wilson each hit solo shots off Cubs starter Sergio Mitre. Mitre, making his second start, gave up six runs on nine hits and one walk over 5 1/3 innings.
"I thought I threw the ball pretty good," Mitre said. "I threw some good pitches that got hit, and some bad pitches that got crushed."
Chicago scored five runs in the sixth to overcome the Rockies' 6-5 lead. Lee and Ramirez each hit RBI singles, and both scored on Burnitz's blast, his eighth, which came with two out off Jose Acevedo.
"It's great to see Aramis come alive the last few days," Baker said. "We're playing better baseball."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.