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Cubs roll on HR barrage
Published July 19, 2005
CINCINNATI - Thousands of Cubs fans chanted "MVP!" whenever Derrek Lee came to the plate.
After another trailblazing game, who could argue?
Lee hit two of Chicago's five homers off left-hander Brandon Claussen, sending the large contingent of blue-clad fans into its favorite chant, and the resurgent Cubs rolled to a 9-4 victory over the Reds on Monday night.
Lee became the first major-leaguer to reach 30 homers this season, hitting shots in his first two at-bats. Todd Walker also homered twice, extending his hitting streak to 11 games.
Lee went 2-for-5, raising his average a point to .373, best in the majors. He's at or near the top of every hitting category.
"By far, he's been the best player in baseball this year, and it's been fun to watch," Walker said.
Aramis Ramirez added a home run in the Cubs' biggest homer barrage of the season. The five off Claussen equaled the most off a Reds pitcher.
The outburst was hardly a surprise. The series matches the league's top power-hitting clubs - Cincinnati has 121 homers, the Cubs 120 - in the ballpark that has yielded more homers than any in the majors.
"It's an offensive paradise," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "You're never comfortable here. It's similar to playing in Colorado. The game's not over or out of reach until the last out and you're sitting in the clubhouse."
The Cubs have won seven of eight, moving back above .500 with a solid stretch by their starting rotation. In the past eight games, Cubs starters have allowed 12 earned runs.
Jerome Williams gave up six hits, three by Felipe Lopez, in 62/3 innings. Rich Aurilia's two-run homer cut it to 7-4 and ended Williams' outing.
The loss snapped Cincinnati's three-game winning streak, its longest this season.
A hot, sticky evening provided perfect conditions for the ball to carry, and it didn't take the Cubs long to take advantage of the league's worst rotation. Reds starters lead the league in runs and homers allowed.
ROCKIES 5, NATIONALS 4: Washington third baseman Vinny Castilla's second error of the game allowed visiting Colorado to score the tiebreaking run in the ninth.
With a runner on second and two outs, closer Chad Cordero got Aaron Miles to hit a seemingly routine grounder to third. But the ball went past Castilla, the former Devil Ray, allowing Eddie Garabito to score.
Leftfielder Ryan Church threw home far too late to get Garabito. Catcher Brian Schneider then threw to second to get Miles and end the inning.
Castilla, playing with tendinitis in his left knee, also made a throwing error in the fifth that contributed to the Rockies' second run.
ASTROS 11, PIRATES 1: Humberto Quintero's three-run double in the fourth ended Houston's 21-inning scoreless streak in Pittsburgh, and Brandon Backe held the Pirates to a run over six innings.
The Astros, who won 29 of their last 42 before the All-Star break, scored five total while losing three straight in St. Louis over the weekend. But Backe got them back within a game of .500 with his pitching and his hitting.
The former Devil Ray followed Quintero's three-run double with a run-scoring triple in the four-run fourth, which came after Houston had none on and two outs. Backe also doubled the inning before and has four extra-base hits, six RBIs and a .294 average. Quintero finished with four RBIs.
CARDINALS 11, BREWERS 4: Albert Pujols homered, singled and doubled and scored four, helping Matt Morris win his 11th for host St. Louis.
Mark Grudzielanek had three hits and three RBIs and Abraham Nunez had two hits and three RBIs for the Cardinals, who are a league-best 60-32 and have won 10 of 12. They are 6-1 against Milwaukee and 30-9 against the Central.
DIAMONDBACKS 8, MARLINS 7 (11): Quinton McCracken doubled home Kelly Stinnett in the 11th inning for host Arizona.