DENVER—A couple of hours before one of the wildest Cubs games of the season, manager Dusty Baker was discussing the difficulties of playing in the launching pad known as Coors Field.
"This is the toughest place in baseball to manage," Baker said. "Some of the laws of padding the score go out the window. And the laws of how long you stay with a pitcher go out the window."
Hours later, the Cubs nearly threw the game out the window.
But they somehow managed to hang on for an 11-8 victory over Colorado, scoring 10 runs in the last three innings. The Cubs won for the seventh time in nine games, taking a one-game lead over San Diego in the wild-card race.
Late-inning home runs by Sammy Sosa, Aramis Ramirez and Todd Walker stole the show, saving the Cubs' bullpen, which allowed four runs in three innings.
"To outduel them here, it's a big win," Walker said. "Every win is big now, but this is special."
No lead is safe at Coors, as the Cubs and Rockies seemed intent to prove over and over and over.
Trailing 4-1 in the seventh, the Cubs bounced back to tie it on Sosa's three-run homer off Steve Reed, then grabbed their first lead on Walker's RBI double. But they coughed it right back up on Mark Sweeney's two-out, two-run pinch homer off Kyle Farnsworth in the bottom of the seventh.
After Rockies closer Shawn Chacon allowed the tying run to score on a wild pitch with two outs in the eighth, Ramirez homered on the very next pitch to give the Cubs the lead again. A single by Derrek Lee and a two-run homer by Walker put the Cubs ahead 9-6, and Farnsworth trudged out to the mound to start the bottom of the eighth.
Charles Johnson led off with a solo homer off Farnsworth, who was promptly removed by Baker. The Cubs added two insurance runs off Allan Simpson in the ninth on a sacrifice fly by Nomar Garciaparra and a passed ball by Johnson that brought Corey Patterson home from third.
Todd Helton started the bottom of the ninth with a solo homer off LaTroy Hawkins, who retired the next three hitters for his 18th save.
"This park will wear you out," Baker said.
How crazy was Wednesday's victory?
Despite giving up home runs to two of the three batters he faced and getting his fourth blown save, Farnsworth (4-3) was credited with the win. Meanwhile, the Cubs were only 2-for-17 with runners in scoring position and scored three runs without making contact--once on a wild pitch and twice on passed balls by Johnson. Lee even scored from second base on a strikeout by Walker in the second inning when Johnson couldn't locate the ball after it deflected off his shin guard.
For five-plus innings, the Cubs were shut down by journeyman Jamey Wright, a pitcher cut by the Cubs in spring training who spent the first half of the season in Triple A.
The Cubs trailed 4-1 when Carlos Zambrano was removed after six innings, but Sosa's three-run shot off Scott Dohmann tied it in the seventh. Sosa's homer was the 563rd of his career, tying Reggie Jackson for eighth place on the all-time list. Dohmann was ejected two pitches later by plate umpire Dan Iassogna for allegedly throwing at Ramirez, and manager Clint Hurdle got the thumb for arguing the decision.
But the weirdness was only beginning.
"I'm just glad we scored those 10 runs in the final three innings," Baker said. "And that still was hardly enough."