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Cubs edge Cards, take series 4-1
The Cubs finished off St. Louis with a 7-6 victory at Wrigley Field on Thursday, surviving two ejections, two lost balls in the sun and another chapter in their ongoing battle against the umpires.
When all was said and done in this intense series, the Cubs had taken four of five games from the Cardinals, moving past them into second place in the NL Central, a half-game behind Houston.
The race goes on for the Cubs as they head to Milwaukee, but the memories of this rare five-game series will linger.
"It made me a fan, and that's what baseball is all about," Cubs infielder Tony Womack said. "A rivalry such as this, both trying to make the playoffs and keep the other guys out of the playoffs.
There's heat from both sides. If you're not a fan and you watched this series, you became a fan."
Womack's RBI single in the seventh off Mike DeJean (5-8) brought home Moises Alou with the go-ahead run, ending another seesaw game that had the players and managers on edge from the start.
"That was one of the best series I've ever been in," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "Especially against the rival Cardinals. This is the epitome of what everyone talks about with the Cardinals and Cubs."
Tensions were high once again in the series windup, with extra security brought in, and in spite of a pregame peace summit near the batting cage between Baker and St. Louis manager Tony La Russa.
Sammy Sosa and Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild were ejected over separate disputes with plate umpire Bill Hohn, and Randall Simon was held back from getting into Hohn's face by Kenny Lofton, who has become the team's Designated Restrainer.
Baker argued with the umpires early and often but managed to stay in the game.
"I knew I couldn't get ejected," Baker said. "Plus my dad kind of read me the riot act [Wednesday] night. My dad told me, 'Son, we've been working on your temper all of our lives.' I said, 'Sounds to me that if I was 12 years old, I might've got a spanking.' He told me I have to stay calm and stay in these ballgames and stay under control. I knew he was watching every minute."
Sosa was muttering out loud after his checked swing in the third inning was called strike three. Hohn followed him toward the dugout and heard Sosa, giving him a quick thumb.
"I was cursing myself and he threw me out," Sosa said. "I was surprised."
Cubs starter Shawn Estes was trailing 5-3 in the fifth when he was pulled for a pinch-hitter.
The Cardinals had scored two runs in the first inning in a rally that included Alou losing a fly ball in the sun, then they took a 3-2 lead in the fifth after Lofton lost a fly in the sun, resulting in a fielder's choice and a run being scored.
One batter later Estes thought he struck out Chris Widger to end the inning and began walking off the mound, but Hohn called it a ball and Widger followed with a two-run double, leading to Rothschild's ejection.
"Shawn has had probably the worst luck and the weirdest things happen to him," said Baker, who declined to say whether Estes would stay in the rotation.
Grudzielanek's two-run double off Brett Tomko tied it 5-5 in the fifth, and Alou's RBI double gave the Cubs a 6-5 lead.
Mike Matheny tied it in the seventh with a run-scoring single off Mike Remlinger (6-5), before Womack's big hit in the seventh gave the Cubs the lead for keeps.
"No matter what the opposing team does," Womack said. "we always have a counterpunch."