Mark DeRosa collected a career-high five hits and drove in four runs, including a tie-breaking RBI single in the fourth, to back Jason Marquis and lift the Cubs to a 12-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday. The win snapped Chicago's losing streak at four games.
With the win, the Cubs moved within a half-game of the Central Division-leading Brewers, who lost, 8-0, to the charging St. Louis Cardinals. And guess who comes to Wrigley Field next? The Cardinals, now 2 1/2 games back, come to town for a four-game series, starting Friday.
"Hats off and a lot of respect to the Cardinals for what they've been able to do," DeRosa said. "It's a direct reflection of their manager, Tony La Russa, and a lot of veteran leadership on that team. We need to take care of business, [with them] coming into our house."
The Cubs did just that on Thursday. Aramis Ramirez had four hits and drove in two runs, and Ryan Theriot added three hits and two RBIs to spark the season-high 20-hit attack. Marquis (10-7) served up four runs, seven hits and four walks over six-plus innings, striking out two.
"It's nice when all cylinders are clicking," Marquis said. "They did a real good job of picking me up and making great plays."
The Cubs are 39-28 since June 3, the best record in the National League in that stretch despite going 5-10 this month.
"We're not done making noise yet," Piniella said. "We're fortunate that the team in front of us has struggled at the same time. Now you've got the team behind us coming in, and we've got a chance to slow them down a little bit. We'll see what happens."
Before Thursday's game, DeRosa donned some duck-hunting camouflage gear that Theriot got in the mail, mimicking duck calls. The players weren't thinking about their losing streak, or fretting about losing Alfonso Soriano to injury, or worried about the Brewers.
"What I liked was that everybody was nice and relaxed, and they came out to play," Piniella said. "We've had our share of adversity, but the clubhouse was lively before the ballgame, and the kids came out and were ready to play."
Will the duck call be added to the daily regimen?
"It might have to be," DeRosa said, laughing.
The Cubs pounced on Reds starter Bobby Livingston (3-3) with a four-run first inning, scoring on RBI doubles by DeRosa, Ramirez, Jake Fox and Jacque Jones. The Cubs also totaled four doubles in one inning on Wednesday night. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Cubs are the first team to collect four doubles in one inning in consecutive games since Cleveland did so, April 10-11, 1999.
But the Reds answered in the second when Adam Dunn led off with his 32nd homer. Cincinnati eventually loaded the bases with one out, and Josh Hamilton was hit by a pitch to force in a run. Jeff Keppinger and Ken Griffey Jr. each hit RBI singles to tie the game at 4. Griffey was thrown out as he tried to scramble back after rounding first, apparently thinking the baserunner ahead of him had moved up.
"I let that inning get away from me," Marquis said. "The two guys I walked, I was trying to be too perfect and nitpick on the outer half of the plate instead of going with my good sinker. I was able to right myself after that."
He got a lot of help from his teammates. Theriot doubled with one out in the Chicago fourth, one of his three hits, and scored on DeRosa's single.
"I've done a lot of good things in my career, and I've done a lot of bad things," said DeRosa, whose previous high for hits in a game was four, done most recently on Aug. 9, 2006, at Oakland. "This happens to be a good thing and it comes at a good time."
DeRosa came into the game with five RBIs in 29 games since the All-Star break.
"I told Lou after the game, I like hitting in front of [Derrek Lee]," DeRosa said. "I got some fastballs to swing at."
Lee was the only Cubs starter who didn't get a hit. But don't think he isn't needed. Theriot said the youngsters look up to Lee, DeRosa, Cliff Floyd and Jason Kendall.
"They're guys you can lean on," Theriot said. "If you have a question, or you're stuck a little bit, you don't have to talk to the coaches. All you have to do is look to the guy next to you and they can pat you on the back and help you out. That's what you're hoping for -- that's what I was hoping for when we signed Mark in the offseason."
Don't be surprised if you hear a duck call from the clubhouse on Friday.