Cubs shellac Astros in finale

Cubs shellac Astros in finale

CHICAGO -- Usually it's the big guys in the Cubs' lineup, such as Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez, who get the curtain calls. On Sunday, Reed Johnson had the first of his career, and on Wednesday, it was Mark DeRosa's turn to tip his cap.

DeRosa belted his fourth career grand slam and Alfonso Soriano added a three-run homer, both with two outs, to highlight an eight-run third inning and lift the Cubs to an 11-4 victory over the Houston Astros.

With the win, the Cubs maintained a five-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers, who beat Cincinnati, 6-3. The Cubs can relax on Thursday, their first off-day after 20 straight games. Chicago went 12-8 in that stretch.

"We're playing good baseball, we've won the last three series, so let's continue to win series and we'll be just fine," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.

The Cubs wiped out an Astros 4-1 lead in the third rather quickly. Chicago loaded the bases with two outs to set up DeRosa's 12th homer of the season. After the long ball, DeRosa took a curtain call, doffing his cap to the crowd of 41,107 from the top of the dugout.

"That's my first curtain call of my career," DeRosa said. "I read Reed Johnson's comment the other day of watching 'D-Lee' and 'Sori' and Aramis and all those guys get curtain calls on a pretty regular basis throughout the year, and it's nice. It makes you feel good, and it's one of those moments you don't forget."

The Cubs weren't finished in the third, either. Kosuke Fukudome doubled, Geovany Soto was intentionally walked, and Jason Marquis helped himself with an RBI double. Soriano then launched his 21st homer of the season, hammering the first pitch from Astros starter Brandon Backe to put the Cubs ahead, 9-4.

DeRosa also hit an RBI double in the second. What was DeRosa's approach in the third?

"I just tried not to do too much and tried to drive a base hit up the middle and get us back in the ballgame," he said. "I happened to catch a curve and get it up. I didn't know it was going to go out."

It was DeRosa's second slam of the season. He also hit one in San Francisco on June 30, when he matched a career high with six RBIs. On Wednesday, he drove in five.

"I like it," DeRosa said.


"I guess it shows we don't quit. I've said all along, we get after it pretty good."
-- Manager Lou Piniella, on the Cubs' comeback ability

The Cubs' most versatile player, DeRosa had scuffled in July, batting .195. Piniella has to make sure he rests the second baseman/third baseman/left fielder/right fielder. In his past 10 games, DeRosa is hitting .355 with three doubles, a homer, six runs scored and 12 RBIs.

"You never doubt yourself, you never lose confidence," DeRosa said. "You wonder sometimes when you're going to get going. I've always been a streaky hitter, and you just want to be a part. The team is having so much fun, you don't want to be that guy who's moping in the corner. You try not to be, and none of the guys let you become that. That's been the nice thing. A lot of flaws are hidden when the team has so much success."

Jason Marquis (7-7) was able to celebrate, too. He ended an 0-4 skid to win for the first time since June 21. In five of his six previous starts, the Cubs had scored one or no runs while he was on the mound. Against the Astros, he gave up four runs, six hits and two walks over 6 1/3 innings, including a three-run homer to Carlos Lee, who upped his average at Wrigley Field to .311 for his career.

Piniella had two relievers up in the fourth inning when the Astros mounted a little surge and loaded the bases against Marquis. He'd given up an RBI single to Lance Berkman in addition to Lee's homer the inning before.

"I told myself to be a little more aggressive, attack the strike zone like I had been," Marquis said. "The pitch to Berkman was a good pitch, the pitch to Lee was good location but wrong selection. I was happy with the way I threw the ball. I ran into that one inning, and my offense did a great job today and let me relax a little bit."

Wednesday's win was the Cubs' 33rd come-from-behind victory this season, although that statistic is a little skewed. A team is credited with a come-from-behind win if it's trailing by one run in the first and rallies.

"I guess it shows we don't quit," Piniella said. "I've said all along, we get after it pretty good."

"It says we have a lot of trust in each other," DeRosa said. "We trust our ability to get it done. Also, the fans play a part in it, no doubt. [You have] 40,000 every day. They don't allow you to quit. They don't allow you to take an at-bat off.

"When it's 4-1 in the fourth inning, you know you have a shot to get back in the ballgame with one swing. We knew there was a lot of time left."

Next up is a weekend showdown with the St. Louis Cardinals, who are not that far off the pace in the National League Central.

"If we just keep playing good baseball and worry about the Cubs," Marquis said, "everything will take care of itself."

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