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Kerry Wood did his Wild Thing imitation Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, loading the bases in the bottom of the ninth before striking out Matt Kemp on a 95 m.p.h. fastball to preserve a 5-4 win over Los Angeles.
"Exciting game," manager Lou Pniella said. "I've had all the fun I want for one evening. The decision was in the balance until the last pitch. Woody got a good fastball by Kemp, a good hitter. That's a good way to start a four-game series."
Wood entered with a one-run lead in the ninth and immediately gave up a hit to left by James Loney, who hustled his way to second and beat Alfonso Soriano's throw in. Wood then struck out Blake DeWitt and retired Chin-lung Hu on a pop up to center before he decided to make things interesting by plunking Terry Tiffee, who was pinch-hitting for closer Takashi Saito.
The last three times Wood has hit a batter in the ninth, it led to a sudden implosion. When he walked Juan Pierre on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases and fell behind Kemp with two straight balls, it looked as though history would repeat itself.
"He fell behind 2-0 and came in with three pretty good fastballs," Piniella said. "And Kemp is a good fastball hitter. What a game. It really was, win or lose. It was a heck of a ballgame. The Dodgers had no quit in them, and our kids kept battling too."
The Cubs are confident they can come back after any adversity, including a blown save by Bob Howry.
"They should feel confident," Piniella said. "But sometimes you do it, and sometimes you don't. Let's hope we don't have to do it too often."
Despite his strong start to the game, Ryan Dempster lasted only 5 1/3 innings, throwing a season-low 82 pitches and leaving with a 4-3 lead in the sixth after Jeff Kent's homer and a walk to Russell Martin. He was upset with himself over his outing, saying he stopped being aggressive for some unknown reason.
"I don't know," he said. "I felt good. I felt strong. I was just getting behind every guy. There's really no excuse for it. I was feeling good, my stuff was good
Fortunately we were able to win that game, but that's a game where you've got to be better than that. Go out and keep it moving along, keep throwing strikes. And if you get beat throwing aggressively, then you get beat. But when you get beat un-aggressively, it's kind of hard to swallow."
Neal Cotts and Carlos Marmol pitched well in relief, but Howry gave up a game-tying home run to Jeff Kent, his second of the ninth, with two outs in the eighth.
The Cubs took the lead again in the ninth after Ryan Theriot led off with a double off Saito, Aramis Ramirez was hit by a pitch and Kosuke Fukudome drove a one-out single to right to bring Theriot home. But the Cubs couldn't add to their lead, as Geovany Soto struck out and Jim Edmonds was retired on a fly to center.
Fukudome also hit his fourth home run, crediting the fact that he'd been reunited with his family on the West Coast trip after spending the first two months of the season by himself.
Fukudome hasn't hit with the kind of power some had projected for when he came over from Japan, where he averaged between 20-30 homers most seasons. While no one was looking for 30 homers from Fukudome, few expected he'd have as few as three homers two months into the season.
Is his power game finally starting to emerge?
"I don't think it came back 100 percent, but I think it's going in the right direction," he said through an interpreter. "I think I was able to swing a little more like the image I have."