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NL: Cubs back from break swinging

Associated Press
Published September 7, 2004

CHICAGO - Four days off suited Aramis Ramirez just fine.

Ramirez hit two two-run homers and Carlos Zambrano allowed four hits in eight innings to lead the Cubs to a 9-1 victory over the Montreal Expos on Monday.

Mark Grudzielanek, Derrek Lee and Michael Barrett also homered for Chicago, which played its first game since Wednesday's 2-1 extra-inning victory at Montreal. Three games at the Marlins were postponed because of Hurricane Frances.

Ramirez took advantage of the long weekend to rest his sore left groin, which has been bothering him since July.

"I feel a lot better. I'm not at 100 percent, but the four days off really helped my groin," Ramirez said.

The Cubs took a half-game game lead over idle San Francisco in the wild-card race. Houston stayed 11/2 back.

The Giants and the Astros moved closer while the Cubs remained idle during the weekend.

"It's kind of frustrating, but we will still have to play those games, too," Ramirez said. "There is going to be a time when we are playing and they will be off and we have to take advantage of that, too."

Zambrano gave up one run, struck out five and walked one to match his career high in wins. The right-hander has a league-best 2.17 ERA at home.

Cubs manager Dusty Baker is hoping the Cubs' other four starters, Matt Clement, Greg Maddux, Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, also have success with the four days off.

"You just hope they are as sharp as Carlos was today," Baker said. "Strength is one thing, sharpness is something else."

BRAVES 3, PHILLIES 1: Replacement starter Travis Smith pitched five solid innings, Andruw Jones homered and host Atlanta buried Philadelphia a little deeper in the East.

Smith, who has spent most of the season at Triple A, got the start when Crystal River's Mike Hampton couldn't go because of a stiff neck. The journeyman, 31, allowed five hits and a run before giving way to the bullpen.

Jones had two RBIs and knocked a potential Phillies run off the board by throwing out a runner at the plate.

Four relievers finished for the Braves, who won for the 12th time in 14 games. John Smoltz pitched 12/3 innings for his 36th save.

The Phillies, expected to threaten Atlanta's streak of 12 division titles, instead dropped 131/2 games back. They have 25 games left and virtually no chance of catching the Braves.

BREWERS 9, PIRATES 5: Brady Clark drove in four and visiting Milwaukee scored six in the third. The Brewers won their fourth in five games, and Pittsburgh lost its fifth in a row. Geoff Jenkins homered leading off the second, then followed Clark's two-run single in the third with a two-run double, his third extra-base hit against starter Ryan Vogelsong in four at-bats.

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