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Rusch, Ramirez lead Cubs to victory

Rusch, Ramirez lead Cubs to series win

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MILWAUKEE -- Greg Maddux and Sean Marshall were in the bullpen just in case, but Glendon Rusch did the job as emergency starter on Sunday to help the Cubs enjoy the All-Star break.

Aramis Ramirez drove in two runs, including one on his 16th homer, to back Rusch, as the Cubs beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 11-4, on Sunday.

"It's always good to go in [to the All-Star break] with a winning streak," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "A lot of people say, 'Hey, man, do you wish you could keep playing?', but these guys have given us all they have."

Rusch (3-7) was subbing for Mark Prior, who was scratched because of a strained left oblique he injured during batting practice on Saturday. Rusch began the season in the rotation, was switched to the 'pen, and spent some time on the disabled list with a bad back. In his ninth start and 17th game, the left-hander gave up two runs on four hits and two walks over five innings while striking out five.

Rusch didn't know for sure that he was starting until he got to Miller Park on Sunday.

"I had a decent idea there was a chance, but that was it," Rusch said.

All pitchers were available -- and maybe some of the Cubs fans in the sellout crowd of 41,528 at Miller Park -- except for All-Star Carlos Zambrano and rookie Carlos Marmol. Maddux was throwing in the bullpen late in the game, but said that was to get his side work in. He'd volunteered to pitch an inning, if needed.

"When Glendon went five, that took care of me," Maddux said.

Juan Pierre drove in three runs, hitting a two-run double and an RBI single, Matt Murton knocked in two, and Angel Pagan hit a solo homer, as the Cubs (34-54) closed a disappointing first half with a three-game winning streak. That matches their longest win streak of the season. It's been a tough first half, as Baker and his coaches have had their job status questioned.

"I'm not talking about anybody getting fired or anybody not getting fired," Cubs reliever Scott Eyre said. "It's stupid. If it happens, it happens. All we can do is play hard. To keep talking about it is stupid because [general manager Jim Hendry] already came out and said [Baker] is not in danger of losing his job. It seems like everybody wants him to get fired, because that's all anybody talks about.

"All I want to talk about is Glendon Rusch's start today -- that was awesome," Eyre continued. "He went five innings and went out there and competed. He came here this morning, they said, 'You're starting,' and he said, 'OK.'"

After the game, Baker headed home to Sacramento, Calif., for the break.

"It's tough," he said of the first half. "It's real tough. But what are you going to do?"

It was tough because the Cubs had Prior and Kerry Wood for just eight starts, combined, were forced to use rookie pitchers, played sloppy at times, lost Derrek Lee for two months and struggled offensively.

"It's something we've been dealing with for the last couple years," Rusch said of the injuries. "We'll have to persevere through and, hopefully, get back on track. When we have everybody healthy, you hope our team can play better and perform better than they have been and play better in the second half.

"I look at this series here being good for us. Hopefully, it'll carry over after these off-days."

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

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