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Fukudome highlights victorious torrent

Fukudome highlights winning torrent

HOUSTON -- Ted Lilly picked the perfect night to serve up four home runs.

Mike Fontenot matched a career high with four RBIs, hitting an RBI single in a four-run first and a three-run homer in a four-run second, and Aramis Ramirez also drove in four to power the Cubs to an 11-6 victory and a series win over the Houston Astros on Wednesday.

The brightest offense came from Kosuke Fukudome, who had three hits before the Astros pitcher had an at-bat, and added a solo homer in the ninth. The four hits matched his career high.

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"I didn't change my approach," Fukudome said through his interpreter Hiro Aoyama. "I was comfortable at the beginning. This is the result I got."

Cubs manager Lou Piniella called it Fukudome's best game with the team.

"I'm glad to hear that, and I would like to continue doing that," Fukudome said.

"We had every confidence that he would revert back to what he did in the first half of last year," Piniella said of the Japanese outfielder, who struggled in the second half of '08. "I said I'd play him in center field and put him in the two-hole in the lineup, and he's responding. The credit goes to him. I felt all along that this year here would be much different."

Lilly (1-0) benefited. He gave up back-to-back solo homers by Jeff Keppinger and Lance Berkman in the third, a two-run blast by Ivan Rodriguez in the fourth and a leadoff homer by Kaz Matsui in the fifth. The Astros found the jet stream at Minute Maid Park, taking advantage of a strong southerly wind and a wide-open roof. Lilly said his arm strength was OK, but his location was off.

"We're going to score a lot of runs, there's no doubt about it, but I don't know if we're going to score 11 every night," Lilly said. "I want to be prepared so when we don't, I can limit the opposing club to two runs or whatever is necessary to get the 'W.'"

"I told him he pitched on the right night," Piniella said of the lefty. "He's a little behind. His location is not good. When he should be missing down, he's missing up with the ball up in the zone. Today, the wind was blowing out to left field, and they got a hold of a few of them. He's going to get much better. At least none of them hit the foul pole tonight."

In Lilly's last exhibition start at new Yankee Stadium, he gave up three home runs and christened the foul poles as two of the homers deflected off each one.

"I definitely don't feel like I'm sharp," Lilly said. "There were a lot of balls that they took some really good swings on, and on top of that there were some I got away with. The one thing I can focus on is make sure, No. 1, locate my fastball and start moving the ball on different sides of the plate and start pitching better."

The Cubs couldn't hit much better. Ramirez tied a career-best with four hits, including an RBI single in the first and the second, and a two-run double in the fifth.

The first six batters in the game reached base, all of them on hits, except for Milton Bradley, who walked. Derrek Lee hit an RBI double, and Ramirez, Fontenot and Ryan Theriot each hit RBI singles. In the second, Ramirez added another RBI single, which chased Brian Moehler (0-1). With two on and two outs, Fontenot slapped the first pitch from Russ Ortiz over the right-field wall to open an 8-0 lead. Fontenot also drove in four on May 3, 2008, at St. Louis.

"It's definitely fun to get a chance to get out there and everyone's getting hits," Fontenot said. "Everyone was getting a chance to get an RBI."

If the Cubs were worried about losing some offense because Geovany Soto was sidelined, they didn't need to. Chicago collected 16 hits, and Bradley was the only position player who didn't get one, but he reached base four times and scored two runs.

David Patton, a.k.a. the Rule 5 kid, as Piniella calls him, made his Major League debut in the sixth and served up a leadoff homer to Hunter Pence, then retired the next six batters.

"It was exciting, it was thrilling, it was a big rush, it was everything I dreamed of since I was a little kid of pitching in the big leagues," Patton said.

Lee went over to the right-hander after Pence's homer to give him a little pep talk.

"D-Lee's a veteran player, and he's seen a lot of games and a lot of guys come up, and he said, 'Hey, focus up, calm down and let's go after them,'" Patton said. "'Get ahead and show them your stuff.' That's pretty much what I tried to focus on."

Before the game, Piniella was lamenting that the Cubs weren't scoring much. He wants more, particularly from Fukudome.

"He's been working on his hitting," Piniella said. "They were all good at-bats, even the out [in the seventh], he ran the count to 3-2. We need for him to hit. Tonight was a real good start."

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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