Aramis Ramirez put on a one-man show Thursday night in Cincinnati, moving alongside Ron Santo in the Cubs' record book while keeping the club on San Francisco's heels in perhaps the wildest wild-card playoff race ever.
Ramirez went 4-for-5 with three home runs and five RBIs, accounting for all the Cubs runs and all but two of their six hits in their 5-4 victory over the Reds.
"If it's not me, it's going to be somebody else," Ramirez said. "This is the time to make our move and get on a roll. We only have 18 games left. San Francisco is playing pretty good right now, so we have to play every game like it's the last one."
The Cubs trail the Giants by a half-game in the wild-card race, with Houston two games back.
Ramirez's three-homer game was the third of his career and second of the season, the other time coming against Philadelphia on July 30 at Wrigley Field. His 33 homers ties Santo's 1965 franchise record for a third baseman, and he's three RBIs shy of joining Santo and Andy Pafko as the only Cubs with 100 RBIs while playing third.
Ramirez came up in the ninth with a chance to tie the major-league record of four homers but lined out to right after fouling off a hanging curve from Joe Valentin.
"That would've brought the house down, brought the world down," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "It was a great night for him. We got six hits, he got four of them. He drove in all the runs. This is when you need somebody like that, or somebodies, to put the whole team on his back and carry them."
Kerry Wood (8-7) won for the first time in five starts, surviving a shaky fifth inning and getting spotless relief from Kent Mercker and LaTroy Hawkins.
"Coming from behind, it's a good sign," Wood said. "We're playing really good baseball right now, and it didn't seem like anybody was too worried about it when I gave up the lead. We weren't tightening up in the dugout or out there on the field. We just stayed relaxed, stayed calm, and then Ramirez did it again for us."
The Cubs carried a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the fifth on Ramirez's first two homers off Josh Hancocka two-run, line shot in the first and a solo blast in the fifth.
Wood was on cruise control at that point, making a behind-the-back grab of a Sean Casey shot in the first to start an inning-ending double play, and allowing only two singles through four innings. But he became unglued after Wily Mo Pena's leadoff single, a stolen base and a walk to Jason LaRue.
With Hancock attempting a sacrifice, Wood threw two high-and-tight pitches, knocking the pitcher off the plate, just as Kyle Farnsworth did to Reds starter Paul Wilson last year to precipitate a bench-clearing fight.
Wood's 3-0 pitch also sent Hancock reeling and loaded the bases. A wild pitch scored a run before Felipe Lopez's two-run double gave the Reds a 4-3 lead.
"He just lost it in that fifth inning," Baker said of Wood. "He lost his rhythm and felt like he'd never pitched before."
Wood settled down thereafter and Ramirez connected on a two-run shot to center off Ryan Wagner (3-2) in the seventh to put the Cubs ahead 5-4. The home run was the 213th for the Cubs this season, breaking the franchise record set in 1998. Ramirez's 14 total bases tied the Cubs' single-game record, held by four players, including George Mitterwald, who was the last to do it on April 17, 1974, against Pittsburgh.
The Cubs are now 16 games above .500 at 80-64, reaching their high-water mark.
"We have a better record than we had last year," Baker said. "The only thing that makes it look worse is that the Cardinals are playing so well. We haven't underachieved, considering all the [injuries]."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times