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Cubs start to write new endings vs. Mariners
After Mark DeRosa's error led to a four-run sixth inning for Seattle on Thursday, he was prepared to become the latest Cub to go through the media meat grinder.
But Cesar Izturis spared him when he doubled in two runs in the eighth to cap the Cubs' 5-4 comeback over the Mariners before a crowd of 39,846 at Wrigley Field.
DeRosa is playing third base for the injured Aramis Ramirez.
"Oh, man, they took the goat horns right off me," he said "I could have seen the headlines [Friday], and I heard it from a few fans as well. They wanted me to hit a four-run homer when I led off the eighth. They said I owed them four runs."
The Cubs are starting to pick each other up instead of punching each other in the mouth, giving manager Lou Piniella reason to believe the worst is behind them. They still are five games below .500 and 5½ games behind first-place Milwaukee, but a renewed sense of purpose is evident in the clubhouse.
"Our guys fought back," Piniella said. "And that's the story."
The Cubs had a 1-23 record when trailing after seven innings this year, but reliever Brandon Morrow walked DeRosa and Mike Fontenot leading off the eighth to put them in prime position. Koyie Hill then laid down a perfect sacrifice, receiving a rousing ovation from the crowd.
Izturis was hitting only .136 at home, but he came up with the biggest hit of his Cubs career, a double to left that brought home the tying and go-ahead runs. While Izturis has been losing playing time at shortstop to Ryan Theriot, Piniella has refused to bury him on the bench.
"I was happy for him to get that big knock," DeRosa said. "I know he has been in and out of the lineup, and for him to come through I know boosts his confidence."
Izturis acknowledged that it has been difficult to get locked in playing sporadically.
"Sometimes," he said. "But I can't control that. It's Lou's decision, and I'm always ready to come in."
Bob Howry pitched two scoreless innings for the victory, the third straight time on the homestand the Cubs have come out on the good side of a one-run game.
The Cubs scored three runs in the first inning and carried that lead into the sixth when the Mariners scored four runs off Jason Marquis on one hit, sending him to the showers with only one out in the inning. After retiring Jamie Burke to lead off the inning, Marquis hit his former teammate, Jeff Weaver, and walked Ichiro Suzuki.
Jose Lopez hit a routine double-play grounder to third, but DeRosa let it go through his legs, allowing one run to score and putting runners at second and third.
"Jason deserved better," DeRosa said. "He got the double-play ball when he needed it, and I didn't get it done. The ball just ate me up."
Jose Guillen walked to load the bases before Raul Ibanez lined a 2-2 pitch to the gap in left-center. The first two runners scored easily, but Izturis might have had a shot at nailing Guillen at the plate if he hadn't double-clutched on his throw after taking the relay.
Marquis allowed only two hits in 5 1/3 innings, but he has gone seven straight starts without a victory.
The bullpen gave up only one more hit over the last 3 2/3 innings, keeping the Cubs in the game. Howry reduced his ERA to 3.90 with his eighth consecutive scoreless outing, showing signs that he finally has regained his velocity.
"It's funny how things go in cycles," Howry said. "I knew [my velocity] was going up, but it's hard to explain. If I knew how to do that, I wouldn't have had a terrible first two months."
The Cubs improved to 3-1 on the homestand, playing a smarter brand of baseball and winning the games they had been losing for the better part of two months.
"We're starting to see some nice things here," Piniella said. "Slowly, but surely."