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Shortly after finding out Corey Patterson would miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, Dusty Baker was asked if he finally is starting to believe the Cubs franchise is jinxed.
"No," Baker replied. "But I did go by the Billy Goat [Tavern] today to get a hamburger."
Curse or no curse, the season goes on for the Cubs, who avoided falling to .500 on Monday with a 6-3 victory over Florida before a crowd of 38,662 at steamy Wrigley Field.
It was their first victory in a series opener since June 24 vs. Milwaukee, and moved them to within 1½ games of St. Louis in the Central Division.
Tom Goodwin, who replaces Patterson in center field, went 3-for-4 with a walk and two stolen bases off catcher Ivan Rodriguez. Starter Matt Clement snapped a 3-3 tie with a two-run, opposite-field double in a three-run fourth to help himself to his first victory since June 16.
"That was one of the toughest nights I've pitched, and I pitched in Florida for a full season," Clement said. "For a night game it fooled you. You'd think it'd be a little cooler, but it was smokin.'"
The Cubs got defensive gems from Sammy Sosa, who robbed Rodriguez with a diving catch in the eighth, and third baseman Jose Hernandez, who threw Brian Banks out at first in the seventh from his knees. Sosa said all the trials and tribulations the Cubs have gone throughfrom his toe injury and suspension to Hee Seop Choi's concussion to Patterson's knee injurymeans things will even out.
"When you see so many negative things happen, I think maybe in the end it's going to be a good sign for the whole team," Sosa said. "We can't continue going bad the whole year. I believe we will be back. I believe we're going to have a much better second half. After all the things that have happened to us, I don't think anything else can go wrong."
Everything finally went right for the Cubs after Rodriguez and Derek Lee had solo homers off Clement to help stake the Marlins to a 3-1 lead in the second. Alex Gonzalez's two-run homer off Josh Beckett (3-4) tied the game for the second time in the bottom of the second.
"I could tell when I came into the dugout, the intensity on Clement's face after getting us back in the ballgame," Gonzalez said. "You could tell that's pretty much all he needed. I think it fired him up.
With a runner on second and two outs in the fourth, Beckett intentionally walked Paul Bako to get to Clement, who lined a two-run double to right.
"I think a lot of it was luck," Clement said. "I was just hoping for a first-pitch fastball I could make contact on. There wasn't a lot of thought process or approach to it."
On their first day without Patterson, Goodwin and the Cubs looked like they didn't miss a beat.
"We're going to miss him," Sosa said. "I went down and they picked me up. Now it's time for us to pick him up."