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LAD@CHC: Baker's two-run double gives Cubs the lead

CHICAGO -- Jeff Baker has spent more time on the bench watching right-handed pitchers than facing them, but on Saturday, Cubs manager Mike Quade decided to stick with the infielder and it paid off.

Baker delivered a tie-breaking, two-run double in a five-run eighth inning off Matt Guerrier to spark the Cubs to a 10-8 come-from-behind victory over the Dodgers. Starlin Castro matched his career high with four hits, including a two-run single in the eighth, and both he and Darwin Barney drove in three runs.

"It had a 10-8 feel to it," Quade said of the game. "We finally got a Wrigley type of day."

With the win, the Cubs set a Major League record for consecutive stops at .500 to open the season. The Cubs have gone 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8, 9-9, and are now 10-10. The 1951 Red Sox and 1970 Yankees got to 9-9.

"My goal is to get to over .500 for a long time," Quade said. "It's been the strangest 20-game start that I can remember at any level anywhere. There's plenty to like but in three weeks, I don't want to hear you say, 'You're 30-30, do you have any reaction to that?'"

The pregame hype was focused on former teammates Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly, and the Cubs gave Dempster a 5-1 lead after four innings. But the Dodgers closed to 5-4 in the fifth, fueled by Casey Blake's two-run homer and Matt Kemp's solo shot. Los Angeles tied the game on Rod Barajas' blast leading off the sixth.

One out after Barajas connected, pinch-hitter Tony Gwynn tripled and Dempster got Aaron Miles to ground out but then walked Blake. Dempster was pulled and Andre Ethier greeted Sean Marshall with a two-run double to take a 7-5 lead. The Dodgers added an insurance run in the seventh.

"He's just not executing his pitches," Quade said of Dempster, his Opening Day starter, who now has a 7.63 ERA and has given up 36 earned runs over 28 2/3 innings over his last six home starts.

"It's amazing how you feel like you let the team down and then, all of a sudden, we score five and it's makes you feel better," Dempster said. "It's almost like the guys took care of me today and said, 'Hey, we've got your back.'"

Trailing 8-5 in the eighth, the Cubs loaded the bases against Guerrier, who had not given up a run in 10 2/3 innings this year. Castro smacked a two-run single, his fourth hit, to close to 8-7, and another run scored as Barney hit into a fielder's choice. One out later, Aramis Ramirez singled.

Baker, who got the start because Lilly was pitching, then lined a double into the gap in right center, driving in two. Quade could have had Carlos Pena, Tyler Colvin or Blake DeWitt pinch-hit.

"We've got all sorts of left-handed people on the bench but he's been in the game," Quade said of Baker. "He's had some good at-bats against right-handers this year. It's a decision you make and you say, 'The guy's been doing a heck of a job for us and let's give him a shot to win this thing,' and he did it."

Baker began the day batting .464 in 19 at-bats vs. left-handers and .167 in 12 at-bats against right-handers.

"It's always frustrating when you get labeled," Baker said. "You want to go out there and you want to play, whether it's lefty, righty. I know I can hit them both ways.

"You keep battling and hopefully you get time against righties and instill a little more confidence in the managers and coaches, and they let you do it," he said.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was rethinking his late-inning strategy.

"I probably shouldn't have send Guerrier back out [for a second inning]," Mattingly said. "I should have sent [Blake] Hawksworth out. [Guerrier] only made seven pitches [in a scoreless seventh] but he threw 25 [Thursday]."

Neither Lilly nor Dempster got a decision. Lilly was lifted after giving up five runs on 11 hits over 4 1/3 innings.

"Knowing Lilly from a couple Spring Trainings, he's a competitor," Barney said. "It's no time to be friends. We wanted to have a plan and go out there and give 'Demp' some support."

The game had plenty of action. Barney and Marlon Byrd were successful on a double steal in the third. In the first, the Dodgers had runners at first and second with one out when Kemp lined the ball to Castro at short. He intentionally dropped the ball, trying to get a double play, and Kemp was called out, but everyone else was safe.

In the Chicago fourth, Barney broke for second and appeared to run out of the baseline while getting back to first to avoid a tag. But first baseman James Loney, who did not have the ball, was called for interference and an error, and Barney was safe at second.

"The Dodgers' gripe was they thought I had made that move [around Loney] too early before he was actually in my way," Barney said. "It's just one of those things -- you get caught out there and you're running for your life."

Maybe there was so much activity because the players could finally move. Game-time temperature was 63 degrees and there was sunshine. It had not been above 42 degrees all week for the Cubs.

"I think it was a relief to finally be warm," Baker said. "You have your whole locker on [in other games]. Going out there and playing today when it wasn't freezing was definitely a relief."

So was the win. Comments