Maddux, bats send Cubs to win

Maddux, power bats send Cubs to win

LOS ANGELES -- Aramis Ramirez wasn't worried. Dusty Baker wasn't worried, nor were the rest of the Chicago Cubs. It was just a matter of time before Ramirez got hot.

Ramirez belted his third homer in as many games, and Jerry Hairston and Michael Barrett also homered to help Greg Maddux notch his 308th career win as the Cubs edged the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-3, on Monday night.

Ramirez went 3-for-4, hitting a double in the first, a single in the third, and his 10th home run in the fifth. The third baseman is 10-for-21 in his last five games.

"A lot of it is concentration," Baker said. "When a guy can hit, he'll hit. It came right on time."

Ramirez is hitting .256, still a long way from his .318 average last year.

"'Ramy's' a great player, and you know he's not going to hit what he was hitting two weeks ago," Hairston said. "Even though he was hitting .225, .230, he was still hitting the ball hard, and you've got to figure he was going to find some holes eventually."

It helps that Ramirez is feeling better after battling back spasms and a groin injury.

"I'm feeling better at the plate and physically, too," Ramirez said.

Feeling like he was last year?

"I don't think I'm close to the way I was last year," he said. "I don't think I went into a slump last year. Right now, it's time for somebody else to step up, and I've been doing that."

Derrek Lee has been carrying the Cubs, and entered the game leading the National League in average, home runs and RBIs. He could use some help, and Ramirez is getting hot at the right time. He wasn't worried at all.

"I play every day, and every day I've got a chance to do something and improve myself," Ramirez said. "I've been there before. I've been off to a slow start before. It's not the first time it's happened to me. It was just a matter of time before I got my stroke and started driving the ball."

The Cubs now lead the NL with 65 home runs, and have won four in a row for the first time all year.

"We've got a long way to go and a lot of work to do, but you've got to start somewhere," Baker said.

Maddux (3-3) gave up two runs -- one earned -- on five hits over six innings for his first win since May 10. He struck out three, and now is one win shy of tying Mickey Welch for 19th on the all-time win list. He has not walked a batter in his last three starts.

"It's not about walking guys, it's about making pitches good enough to get guys out," Maddux said. "Tonight, I made some good ones and got away with some bad ones and 'Ramy' was hot again, so that helped."

Hairston got things started by hitting his first home run of the year, and fourth career leadoff homer, off an 0-1 pitch from Wilson Alvarez (1-3). Neifi Perez then singled and reached third one out later on Ramirez's double, before scoring on Jason Dubois' groundout.

"I know Wilson. He's a veteran pitcher," Hairston said. "I know he probably figured I wasn't going to go deep. For us, obviously you want to get on the board first, especially on the road."

Corey Patterson doubled to open the Cubs fourth, and Barrett followed with his fifth home run to take a 4-0 lead.

J.D. Drew reached on a rare throwing error by Maddux with one out in the fourth, and Jeff Kent singled. Both scored on Olmedo Saenz's double that eluded Patterson, who appeared to close his glove before he could catch the ball at the wall.

Maddux, who won his 14th Gold Glove last year, seldom makes an error.

"He makes that play 99 times out of 100," Baker said.

"That's a bad play," Maddux said. "I didn't get a very good grip on it and I threw it in the dirt. It's just a straight error."

Saenz belted his fifth homer with one out in the ninth off Ryan Dempster, who held on for his fifth save.

This four-game stretch has helped the Cubs' record, but Maddux kept things in perspective.

"We just get ready to play tomorrow," he said. "I know it sounds stupid, but that's all you can do. Do what you can to enjoy the night, and come ready to play tomorrow."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.