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On the day before the trading deadline, Aramis Ramirez showed why the Cubs might win the wild-card race without mortgaging their future for another hitter.
Ramirez hit three solo home runs Friday to pace the Cubs to a 10-7 victory over Philadelphia, becoming the 24th player in franchise history to do so.
Ramirez hit homers off Eric Milton in second and sixth innings and off Roberto Hernandez in the seventh. Two shots landed on Waveland Avenue.
As the team's most consistent hitter this season, Ramirez would seem a perfect fit in the No. 3 hole. But that's Sammy Sosa's favored spot, and manager Dusty Baker has used Ramirez there only twice in 92 games. Would Ramirez, who hit sixth Friday, like to move up to get more RBI opportunities?
"You have to ask the manager that question," Ramirez said. "Wherever he puts me, I have to do my job. I don't want to argue with the decision. If he does it, he has a right to do it, and I just have to deal with it."
The Cubs won for the fourth time in five games in spite of a sub-par outing by Mark Prior, who allowed six runs on eight hits in 41/3 innings. What was expected to be a pitching duel between Prior and Milton, who came within three outs of a no-hitter against the Cubs on Sunday, turned into a slugfest.
The teams combined for eight homers, including two apiece by Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu off Prior.
Prior gave up a season-high six runs and a career-high four home runs. Prior had served up three homers against Houston on June 1, 2002, at the outset of his major-league career.
Ramirez's three-homer game was his second and the 35th by a Cubs player. Ernie Banks did it four times and Sosa and Dave Kingman three each. The last Cub to do it was Moises Alou on July 4, 2003, against St. Louis.
Ramirez was in the on-deck circle with two outs in the eighth, but Derrek Lee grounded out to deny him a chance at tying the major-league record of four homers in a game.
"I wanted to [hit again]," Ramirez said. "But at the same time, I can't get greedy."
Prior gave up a solo homer to Abreu with two outs in the first and another to Burrell with one out in the second. He didn't watch as Burrell's blast landed on Waveland Avenue, asking for a new ball before the shot hit the pavement.
After Ramirez's blast off Milton in the second, Burrell homered off the back of the fence atop the left-field bleachers on Prior's first pitch to him in the fourth to make it 3-1. Lee's two-run shot in the fourth tied it 3-3, but Prior gave up a leadoff double in the fifth to Jimmy Rollins and walked Placido Polanco before Abreu hit a three-run homer.
Ramirez hit another solo homer with one out in the sixth to ignite a five-run inning off Milton and relievers Rheal Cormier and Hernandez. His last home run came on Hernandez's first pitch of the seventh.
Ramirez said he knows the Cubs have been labeled a team that lives and dies by the home run and pointed to the six singles in the sixth as the more productive method of scoring runs.
"Everybody's right about [the home runs]," Ramirez said. "We lead the league in solo home runs, and that's not a good sign.
"We have to start playing small ball like we did in that [sixth] inning."