Edmonds hits slam, Cubs finish sweep of Brewers

The Cubs didn't decide to stand pat at the trading deadline Thursday just because of their dominance over the Brewers this week at Miller Park.

But after an 11-4 victory gave the Cubs their first four-game sweep in Milwaukee in five years, it was hard to argue this team needs any reinforcements for the stretch run.

Two of their in-season pickups, Rich Harden and Jim Edmonds, did most of the heavy lifting Thursday as the Cubs pushed Milwaukee five games back in the National League Central.

"We came in here and Milwaukee was playing really good baseball," manager Lou Piniella said. "We came in here and took it to 'em."

Harden gave up one run on six hits over seven innings to register his first victory as a Cub while Edmonds hit a pair of home runs, including a back-breaking grand slam off Dave Bush in the fourth inning. Edmonds pumped his fist into the air as he rounded first, knowing the importance of finishing off the Brewers in the series finale.

"This is a big series for us," Edmonds said. "I was excited to get up by five in the fourth inning. I'm not going to lie. I was excited for the whole group, and to take a little pressure off Rich."

Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome also homered for the Cubs, who outscored the Brewers 31-11 in the series as starters Ted Lilly, Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Harden combined for a 1.61 earned-run average.

After their best road series of the season, the Cubs return to Chicago to begin a nine-game homestand Friday against Pittsburgh, Houston and St. Louis. They re-established themselves as the NL front-runners with their dominance over Milwaukee, and with a 39-14 home record, the Cubs know they can build on their momentum over the next 11/2 weeks.

But, as usual, Piniella took a cautious approach, reminding everyone of the calendar.

"It's July 31 today," he said. "We have baseball to be played in August, September … but certainly coming in here and beating a good opponent in their home ballpark four times, it's something to feel good about."

Harden finally got a victory in his fourth start for the Cubs, though he could just as easily be 4-0 as 1-1. He struck out nine and walked no one.

"I felt as strong as [ever]," Harden said. "I was a little inconsistent with some of my off-speed pitches, didn't have a great feel for that, but I was able to get through it."

Edmonds, who tied a career-high with five RBIs, hasn't played much recently after receiving a cortisone shot to alleviate pain in his left knee. But he appeared energized and mentally stimulated Thursday from the time he walked into the clubhouse and jokingly told a group of reporters hanging around his locker: "Beat it."

After noticing assistant general manager Randy Bush was among those loitering by the locker, Edmonds smiled and added: "Except the boss."

Whether he saved them from the scrap heap or acquired them for prospects, general manager Jim Hendry is on a roll after picking up Edmonds, Harden, Reed Johnson and Chad Gaudin to bolster the team he took into spring training. Now he's gambling it's strong enough to win without any more outside help.

"I knew when I got here this was a good team," Edmonds said. "You can be the best team on paper, the best team in the world, but when you get down to the end and the playoffs start, you have to be the best team at that time, and obviously the best team doesn't always win. So we have a lot of work to do and we'll see what happens when that time comes."