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Karros taking advantage of playing time
When Antonio Alfonseca lost his closer's role in March because of a hamstring injury, Joe Borowski eventually grabbed it and never has looked back.
Eric Karros now finds himself in the same position as Borowski, taking over at first base full time with Hee Seop Choi on the disabled list.
After Karros hit his second game-winning home run in 10 days Monday night to catapult the Cubs to a 4-3 victory over Cincinnati, manager Dusty Baker soon may have another important decision to make.
How can he keep the hot-hitting Karros out of the starting lineup when Choi returns from the DL?
"That's a ways down the line," Baker said. "There is no first-base controversy. We'll worry about that when we get there. That's one reason I asked for a deep bench."
Karros has made the most of his limited opportunities, hitting .303 and proving at the age of 35 he has something left.
"I've tried to keep myself prepared all year," he said. "Dusty has always said 'You never know what can happen. Through the course of a season there will be opportunities.'
"[Choi's injury] is not the way you want to get an opportunity.
But obviously the more pitching you see, especially for me if I'm seeing more right-handers, the better off I'm going to fare."
Moises Alou and Karros hit back-to-back homers in the sixth to erase a one-run deficit, and Matt Clement earned his third consecutive victory with six innings of three-run ball. Clement struck out nine and walked one, improving to 5-6.
"It's nice to go out there against a lineup like that that battles you every batter, to get a quality start and a win," Clement said.
The Cubs are 13-5 in one-run games and lead Houston by 1½ games in the National League Central. They entered the game ranked third in NL relief pitching with a 3.45 earned-run average and added three more scoreless innings. Kyle Farnsworth and Alfonseca threw perfect innings in the seventh and eighth, leading to another adventurous ninth by Borowski.
Jose Guillen singled off the outstretched glove of shortstop Alex Gonzalez with two outs, and Borowski walked slugger Adam Dunn to put the tying run in scoring position.
"I figure this role I'm in is pressure-packed anyway," Borowski said. "So why not add a little bit to it?"
With the crowd of 28,669 on its feet, Borowski got Barry Larkin to go around on a check swing for strike three, posting his 14th save.
Borowski obviously has a little Mitch Williams in him, which can cause a manager's hair to turn gray.
"My motto is better gray than bald," Baker said.
The Reds took a 2-0 lead in the first on Aaron Boone's two-run opposite-field single, but the Cubs came back with RBIs by Damian Miller in the second and Corey Patterson in the third. Austin Kearns' run-scoring single in the fifth made it 3-2 before Alou launched one into the second deck in left field off Jimmy Anderson with one out in the sixth. Karros followed with a shot to center.
"Anytime you hit the ball pretty well in this ballpark, it's probably going to go out," Karros said. "This is probably the most hitter-friendly park in the National League, or for that matter, in all of baseball."