Rusch and Lee help Cubs stay torrid

Rusch and Lee help Cubs stay torrid

SAN DIEGO -- The Chicago Cubs have gotten back to basics. Good pitching, good defense, timely hitting. And all of that translates into wins.

"It's a fun run. I'm all for it," Chicago's Jeromy Burnitz said after the Cubs won their seventh in a row, a 5-0 decision over the San Diego Padres on Thursday night. "I don't care how many [wins in a row]. It's nice."

Todd Walker belted a solo homer and Burnitz hit a key two-run double to back Glendon Rusch's four-hit shutout and lift the Cubs to victory.

It's the first time the Cubs have won seven in a row since they won 12 straight from May 19-June 2, 2001. The Cubs also have totaled at least 10 hits in each of the seven games for the first time since Aug. 25-31, 1952.

The Cubs didn't look as good earlier this month, when they were in the midst of a seven-game losing streak.

"It's not a surprise. It's welcome," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of the recent streak. "They told me the Padres did the same thing and struggled the first month or so. You've just got to go out and play every day."

Rusch (5-1) did it all. He doubled and scored a run, helped himself defensively in the sixth with a scoop toss to Derrek Lee at first and held the red-hot Padres scoreless. Rusch, the first Cubs lefty to throw a complete game in San Diego, struck out seven.

"He went more pitches than we wanted him to," Baker said of Rusch, who threw 122, "but when you have a chance for a complete-game shutout, you've got to go for it. It was against a quality team that's been scoring a lot of runs. We picked up another game today, and we're inching closer to the Cardinals."

It was Rusch's first complete game since May 7, 2003, which was against the Cubs, and his first shutout since June 25, 2002, when he blanked St. Louis, 2-0.

"I really wanted to go back out [for the ninth]," Rusch said, hoping to give the bullpen a day off. "I'm just trying to be as aggressive as I can and throw strikes -- I know that's cliche."

It's appreciated by his teammates.

"He's awesome," Burnitz said of the lefty. "He works fast and he's really executing his pitches. Tonight was an outstanding game for him."

Rusch is definitely not surprised by the team's turnaround. He predicted it.

A complete Rusch
Chi Cubs at San Diego, June 2, 2005
Glendon Rusch (5-1) turned in a gem for his first complete-game shutout since blanking the Cardinals, also on four hits, on June 25, 2002. At one point in Thursday's game, he retired 10 consecutive batters. His line:
IPHRERBBSOERA
9.0400171.96
Key numbers for Rusch:
Pitches-strikes: 122-81; Groundouts-flyouts: 6-14;
Season strikeouts-walks: 40-24; WHIP: 1.33

"It can always change. I said a couple weeks ago, we've been playing good baseball," Rusch said. "We were just an inch short of winning ballgames and now we're on the other end of the spectrum."

What has been a constant is Lee. The first baseman, who entered the game leading the National League in batting average, home runs and RBIs, notched his 1,000th career hit with a leadoff single in the sixth. He was 3-for-3 with two walks, and is 8-for-8 in the last two games and 11-for-18 on this trip.

"It's not often that a position player can dictate the outcome of so many games like he has," Walker said of his red-hot teammate. "It's really been a lot of fun. He hits everything hard, everything finds holes and God bless him. We all wish we could do that."

Would Rusch pitch to Lee if he had to face him?

"I don't think so, not the way he's swinging the bat," Rusch said. "You've got tough hitters right behind him too, and that's what's great about our lineup.

Follow the Lee-der
Cubs at Padres, June 2
After going 3-for-3 with a pair of walks, Derrek Lee has now reached base safely in 10 consecutive plate appearances. Lee is batting a Major League-leading .389 with an MLB-high 50 RBIs and is tied for the Major League lead with 17 homers, through June 2. In his last three games (two in Los Angeles), he has gone 11-for-13:
DateABRH2BHRRBIBBSO
5/3150310000
6/152501400
6/232300020
Totals1341111420
Lee is now batting .574 against the NL West.

"I've never seen anything like [Lee's hot streak]. It's incredible. Everything he's doing has helped us win ballgames. He's got to be the MVP of everywhere."

Well, maybe not in St. Louis.

"You could tell they pitched him tough today and pitched around him," Baker said of the Padres' approach to Lee. "He was patient and waited until he got a pitch to hit, and didn't miss it."

Rusch doubled to lead off the third, and two outs later, Padres starter Tim Stauffer walked Lee to set up Burnitz's two-run double.

"The first runs of the game are always big. We'll take it for sure," said Burnitz.

Lee and Burnitz each singled to start the sixth, and Lee scored on Aramis Ramirez's single to chase Stauffer (1-2). Rudy Seanez struck out Corey Patterson, but Jason Dubois hit a RBI single to give the Cubs a 4-0 lead.

Walker greeted Brian Falkenborg with his second home run leading off the Chicago seventh. It was measured at 418 feet, and is the longest homer at PETCO Park this year.

The Cubs now are 4-0 at PETCO Park, and are playing extremely well.

"I'm just a guy who believes in the fundamental things," Burnitz said, explaining the win streak. "We're executing better, our at-bats have been better, our pitching has been solid.

"It's just the basics -- good pitching, good defense and good hitting, timely hitting."

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