By Paul Sullivan
Tribune staff reporter
9:05 PM PDT, July 27, 2005
It was apparent to some Burnitz could not carry a tune, but a few hours later he managed to pick up a ballclub and carry it on his shoulders.
Burnitz's two-out, RBI single off Jeff Fassero in the ninth inning lifted the Cubs to a 4-3 comeback victory over San Francisco, leaving them 3-0-1 in four series since the All-Star break, and four games out of the wild-card playoff lead.
"We all know what we have to do at this point," Burnitz said. "We have to win pretty much every game all the way out. That's the way I feel about it. I think our attitude is staying pretty good and our focus is good throughout nine innings, no matter what happens."
Trailing 3-2 after Carlos Zambrano gave up a game-tying double to Yorvit Torrealba and a go-ahead, run-scoring single to Ray Durham in the eighth, the Cubs staged their fourth comeback victory in their last five games.
Derrek Lee singled off LaTroy Hawkins leading off the eighth. One out later, facing Scott Eyre, Aramis Ramirez hit a double-play grounder to short that went through Omar Vizquel, a nine-time Gold Glove winner with the best career fielding percentage of any major-league shortstop. Lee advanced to third, where he scored the tying run on Matt Murton's fly to right that Michael Tucker lost in the sun, watching it drop for a single.
"We got a couple of breaks," manager Dusty Baker said. "We were hitting the ball hard all day long, and you start wondering after a while whether you're going to get any breaks. We hit the ball better than they did, but they had almost twice as many hits.
"They were getting bleeders, infield hits, bloopers, all kinds of stuff. [Lee] would have scored anyway on that ball, but the big break was that ball that you never, ever, ever see Omar Vizquel not catch. That was a break because it's a double-play ball. Aramis had injured his leg earlier, so the chances of him beating that out were slim and none."
Ramirez, who hurt his left quad running out a grounder in the first and was removed for pinch-runner Neifi Perez in the eighth, was shocked at Vizquel's miscue.
"He's a Gold Glover, only three errors coming into today," Ramirez said. "He's pretty much the best everyday shortstop. But he's a human, and he can make an error too."
Jerry Hairston sat out because of a sore left calf from a foul ball on Tuesday, giving Jose Macias his first start this year in center field. After a leadoff walk to Jody Gerut in the ninth, Macias' sacrifice took another funny bounce, going foul and then fair to advance Gerut. Todd Walker flew out, and Lee was walked intentionally before Burnitz followed with his second game-winning hit of the series.
Burnitz's bat isn't the total story of his contributions. He also forced Vizquel to hold at third with a strong throw home after a difficult catch on a fly to right in the first.
"I definitely have a lot of pride in my defense, because honestly, I don't think I've driven in runs the way I want to do it for this team," he said. "If you can help the team on 'D' it's obviously important. You can take away runs as well as give them away."
Though Burnitz isn't known for his defense, he has played fearlessly in right, crashing into walls, hitting the cutoff man and positioning himself perfectly.
"'Burny' is playing about as good a right field as I've seen," Baker said. "Not only catching the ball, but throwing the ball, holding runners. Guys around the league know you don't run on 'Burny' unless you just have to. He has been a complete ballplayer."
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