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Wood boosts feisty Cubs, win streak
It didn't matter Friday that Jerry Hairston is 29 years old, earns $1.8 million, plays big-league baseball in his hometown and hit his first career grand slam.
Shortly after getting into a shouting match with Pittsburgh closer Jose Mesa in the eighth inning of the Cubs' 11-1 romp at Wrigley Field, Hairston dreaded the idea of having to call home and explain things.
"My mom is going to kill me," Hairston said sheepishly while watching a replay of the incident in the clubhouse.
At least Hairston could explain to his mother that extenuating circumstances led to his war of words with Mesa, or even let manager Dusty Baker speak for him.
"Boys will be boys," Baker said, shrugging off the brouhaha.
The eighth-inning altercation managed to overshadow another strong outing by Kerry Wood, who held the Pirates to one run on two hits in six innings and drove in the go-ahead runs with a second-inning double as the Cubs extended their winning streak to five.
Wood won back-to-back starts for the first time since April 5 and 11, 2004, his first two outings last season.
In four starts since returning from the disabled list with a shoulder strain, Wood is 2-1 with a 2.55 earned-run average.
He left after only 75 pitches Friday when the Cubs put the game away with a five-run sixth.
"It's nice to get a 10-run lead and have that opportunity [to rest]," Wood said. "The more innings you can save, the better."
The Cubs trailed 1-0 in the third when Neifi Perez's two-out RBI single tied it and Wood's two-run double off the ivy in left put them ahead for keeps.
Aramis Ramirez added a three-run homer, his 20th of the season, off Josh Fogg (4-5) in the third.
Hairston capped the five-run sixth with his grand slam off Brian Meadows, precipitating the incident with Mesa in the eighth.
With the game out of hand, Mesa threw a pitch behind Hairston, prompting a warning from plate umpire Larry Poncino.
After Hairston popped out, he jogged past the mound and said a few words to Mesa, who yelled back.
While Hairston shouted and pointed on his way to the dugout, Mesa walked a few steps toward him before first-base ump Gary Darling ejected him.
"I was really taken aback by that [pitch]," Hairston said. "I was really upset and let my emotions get the best of me. I wish it didn't happen. I'm kind of embarrassed by it, to be honest."
While Hairston's presence atop the lineup has rejuvenated the Cubs' offense, Wood's comeback has boosted the rotation. Wood has walked only one batter in his last two starts, after averaging 4.8 walks per nine innings in his five starts before his shoulder problem put him on the disabled list.
Some subtle changes in his mechanics during his rehab seemingly have helped Wood conquer his control issues.
"A lot of it has to do with [the new mechanics]," Baker said. "We see the signs now and he recognizes it when he's not doing something correctly."
After a disappointing first half, the Cubs see a bright light at the end of the tunnel.
With the trade deadline approaching, some players are hoping general manager Jim Hendry turns off his cell phone and stands pat.
"I don't know right now if we need anything," Ramirez said. "The way we're playing, we feel good about ourselves."