In the end, they don't ask how, just how many.
So though the Cubs' 4-3 victory over Arizona on Friday will not be remembered as one of baseball's classic come-from-behind, last-inning triumphs, it was their fifth win in the last seven games in their attempt to sprint toward the wild-card playoff berth finish line.
As players wait to see if general manager Jim Hendry adds another bat before Sunday's non-waiver trading deadline, the just enough offense pulled off the Cubs' fourth one-run victory in their last seven games, and that doesn't count last Saturday's 10th-inning win in St. Louis on Neifi Perez's grand slam.
"Boy, it has been dramatic this week, I'll tell you that," manager Dusty Baker said.
The Cubs were a mediocre 12-12 in one-run games just more than a week ago. Now they are 16-14, including Friday's victory, their first when trailing in the ninth inning since May 18.
"That's how this game goes," Baker said. "You can't figure it out sometimes. We had a couple of timely walks in the last inning, a sacrifice bunt and a couple of timely hits."
And that's how the Cubs' beat Arizona closer Brian Bruney: a Todd Walker walk, a Matt Murton sacrifice, a Jose Macias walk and seeing-eye singles by pinch-hitters Michael Barrett and Aramis Ramirez.
"You've got to believe," Baker said. "Belief goes a long way."
Of course, belief only takes you as far as pitchers and hitters allow. On Friday, the Cubs had just enough of both, to the delight their fans in a crowd of 39,312 on a beautiful summer day at Wrigley Field.
Starter Mark Prior left in the eighth inning with a 3-2 deficit, but Will Ohman and Roberto Novoa kept the damage from getting worse. Then Barrett and Ramirez, given the day off to recover from injuries and fatigue, rolled balls just past the shortstop for the deciding runs.
"We needed this one," Ramirez said. "This was huge."
The unhappiest Cub was Prior, who couldn't hold a 2-0 lead courtesy of batterymate Henry Blanco's second-inning home run off Javier Vazquez. "They bailed me out after some stupid pitches," Prior said. "I was not happy with the way I threw. I had good stuff and I didn't use it effectively."
Things began to unravel for Prior in the seventh when Tony Clark doubled, got to third when center fielder Jerry Hairston had trouble picking up the ball and scored on Shawn Green's groundout.
Then came the eighth when Troy Glaus' bases-loaded single put Arizona ahead 3-2, prompting Prior's exit. Ohman got the second out and Novoa (3-3) the third out and all three outs in the ninth.
Then came the soft rally in the ninth when the only out came on Murton's sacrifice.
"I had three [bunt] attempts [in the minors] before I got here and was successful three times," Murton said. "It's important for me to be a complete ballplayer."
It's also important because he's the one who could lose his roster spot if the Cubs acquire a slugging outfielder to help their offense.
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