Ramirez and the surging Cubs look to further cut into the Milwaukee Brewers’ NL Central lead Saturday when the teams continue a three-game series at Wrigley Field.
Ramirez, who came off the 15-day disabled list on June 22 after being sidelined with patellar tendinitis, hit a game-winning homer off Brewers (46-33) closer Francisco Cordero on Friday in Chicago’s 6-5 win, capping a rally from a five-run deficit.
“Even though we fell behind 5-0 in the first inning we never gave up. The bullpen did a great job and gave us a chance to come back and we did,” Ramirez said.
“This is the team we have to beat, Milwaukee, and try to get close. … When we win the game and I come in, everybody is jumping around because that was pretty special - the way we win and we beat the first-place team.”
The Cubs (39-39) have won seven straight games since Ramirez returned from the DL, and are going for their first eight-game winning streak since a 12-game run from May 19-June 2, 2001. However, they are still 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Brewers, who are 12-3 since June 13.
“They are a pretty good team and if anybody can bounce back from a game like that, it’s Milwaukee,” said Ramirez, who is hitting .346 (9-for-26) with five RBIs since returning to the lineup. “They’ve been in first all year.”
Ramirez is just 9-for-46 (.196) with one homer and seven strikeouts in his career against Milwaukee ace Ben Sheets (9-3, 3.09 ERA).
Sheets, who is looking to become the Brewers’ first 10-game winner, is 5-0 with a 2.04 ERA over his last six starts, and has won three consecutive outings.
On Monday, the right-hander allowed one run and five hits over six innings of a 6-1 victory over the Houston Astros.
“I’m pitching well,” Sheets said. “The only things that matters at the end of the day is limit the runs.”
Sheets is 7-7 with a 3.94 ERA in 20 career starts against the Cubs, but has not defeated them since July 5, 2004. He is 0-5 with a 5.50 ERA and 10 home runs allowed in nine starts versus Chicago since that time. Sheets lasted three scoreless innings in an April 25 meeting at Wrigley before leaving with a groin strain.
The Cubs will counter with Sean Marshall (4-2, 2.44), who is 4-0 with a 2.32 ERA in five June starts, and has given up more than two earned runs only once in seven outings this season.
The 24-year-old left-hander had his first scoreless start of the year on Sunday, when he threw 6 1-3 innings in a 3-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox, allowing five hits and one walk while striking out three.
Marshall is 2-1 with a 2.13 ERA in three starts at Wrigley in 2007.