Rook's move: Hoffpauir stars in loss

Cubs almost 'pauir a win over Mets

NEW YORK -- Micah Hoffpauir made a strong case for being included on the Cubs' playoff roster, but the bullpen situation may be a little murkier.

Hoffpauir went 5-for-5, including his first two Major League home runs, and drove in five runs, but the Cubs came up short, losing, 7-6, to the New York Mets in their final regular-season game at Shea Stadium on Thursday night.

Carlos Beltran hit a walk-off single with two outs in the ninth off Kevin Hart (2-2) for the game-winner. The Mets now are within one game of the Phillies in the National League East and remained tied for first in the NL Wild Card race with the Brewers, who beat the Pirates, 5-1, on a walk-off grand slam by Ryan Braun.

Hoffpauir shouldn't make any vacation plans for October.

"You know, we're looking for a couple spots, we're looking for some offense," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "Put it this way, he'll be in the lineup [Friday] against Milwaukee."

Rich Harden, making his first start in a week and his last of the regular season, was in line for the win after giving up three runs on two hits and five walks over six innings.

"I had moments when I did lose my command a little bit," said Harden. "[The time off] might have something to do with it. It is a little tough to come back from that. Getting a couple starts here, I've felt better. I should be feeling fine in my next start."

Harden's next game will likely be in the National League Division Series, which opens on Wednesday at Wrigley Field.

"When he pitches, he keeps you in the ballgame and gives you a chance to win it," Piniella said of the right-hander, who has a 1.77 ERA in his 12 starts with the Cubs.

The Mets trailed, 6-4, with two outs in the eighth, when Beltran and Ryan Church each singled off Neal Cotts, who was then pulled. Ramon Martinez greeted Bob Howry with an RBI single, and Robinson Cancel then singled to right. Kosuke Fukudome fired home in time, but catcher Koyie Hill missed tagging Church, who ran around Hill and reached back to tag the plate and tie the game.

Hoffpauir, whose single-game high at Triple-A Iowa this season was a pair of four-hit games, hit a solo homer with two outs in the first off Pedro Martinez, an RBI double in the third, a leadoff single in the fifth, a three-run homer in the seventh and a single in the eighth.

"There would have to be some serious miraculous power looking over me to get a triple. Somebody would've had to fall down or I hit it under a bench or something. If the opportunity arose, I probably would've tried to get it, but obviously, I didn't."
-- Micah Hoffpauir

"It was a lot of fun," Hoffpauir said. "It would've been a lot more fun to pull out a win on the other end of that. For me, it will definitely be a memorable night."

Hoffpauir couldn't remember his last five-hit game or if he had one. Does he think he'll be playing in October?

"I'm not going to speculate on anything like that," Hoffpauir said. "If not, I'll take my time this season and be happy about it, and hopefully, next season, get a spot on the roster."

The rookie was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle on Thursday.

"There would have to be some serious miraculous power looking over me to get a triple," Hoffpauir said. "Somebody would've had to fall down or I hit it under a bench or something. If the opportunity arose, I probably would've tried to get it, but obviously, I didn't."

Hoffpauir's hits came off three different pitchers. His goal against Martinez, he said, was to do nothing more than hit the ball up the middle. Derrek Lee and Hoffpauir have been joking about at-bats in the final week of the season. Lee came up to the rookie after the game and told him, "Great job."

"Obviously, he'll be in the lineup tomorrow," Hoffpauir said of the veteran first baseman.

Not according to Piniella.

After Hoffpauir's first homer, Jim Edmonds walked and scored one batter later on Casey McGehee's single. Jose Reyes reached on an error by Hoffpauir to start the Mets' first, and he eventually scored on David Wright's sacrifice fly. After Hoffpauir made it 3-1 with his RBI double, Harden walked two in the Mets' fourth, and both runners scored on Church's two-out double to tie the game.

Felix Pie singled to lead off Chicago's seventh, and Ryan Theriot walked to chase Martinez. Hoffpauir, who set career marks with 25 homers and 100 RBIs at Iowa, launched the first pitch from lefty Ricardo Rincon over the right-field fence at Shea Stadium.

Now the Cubs have three games remaining to finalize the playoff roster. The Cubs still don't know who they'll be playing, and Piniella said that could determine who he picks.

"We have to know who our opponent is first," Piniella said. "Hoffpauir's not hurting himself."

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