The Chicago Cubs have produced enough runs on their current homestand to help them remain at the top of the NL Central.
Chicago looks to win its second straight series when it closes out a three-game set with the Houston Astros on Sunday at Wrigley Field.
Despite being outscored 22-16 in its last five games, Chicago (69-65)— which will try to extend its division lead over Milwaukee and St. Louis—is 3-2 on a 10-game homestand that started with the Cubs taking two of three from the Brewers.
Chicago is near the bottom of the major leagues with 108 homers, but has hit four in its last three games. Its three victories this week have been decided by a combined four runs.
Ramirez, who had 30 or more home runs in each of the last three seasons, hit his 19th and first since Aug. 15. It was the team’s first homer with a man on base since Aug. 18.
“Nothing is shocking. It is surprising to hear that,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. “We’ve been through this drought and we’ve been holding onto first place. Maybe September is the month we start hitting the ball out of the park with regularity.”
Ramirez and Lee each had two hits Saturday for the Cubs, who received a strong outing from starter Jason Marquis.
Ramirez is 7-for-10 in his last three games and batting .302 (13-for-43) with two homers against Woody Williams, Houston’s Sunday starter.
The Cubs hope to get another solid outing from Rich Hill (8-7, 3.68 ERA) when he takes the ball Sunday. Hill allowed three runs and seven hits in seven innings as the Cubs rallied from three runs down to beat Milwaukee 5-3 on Tuesday.
“I learned a lot, and from a personal level, it was a good thing,” Hill told the Cubs’ official Web site.
The left-hander, who is 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA in his last three starts, allowed one run in seven innings of Chicago’s 2-1, 10-inning loss to Houston on Aug. 6 in his only start against the Astros (61-75).
Carlos Lee and Luke Scott each homered Saturday for the Astros, who had their three-game winning streak snapped. Lee, who went 0-for-7 in two games prior to Saturday, is batting .333 (14-for-42) with two homers against Chicago this season and is 2-for-3 with a home run versus Hill.
Williams (8-13, 5.04) will try to bounce back from his last outing. He allowed six runs and eight hits in 4 1-3 innings of a 7-0 loss to St. Louis on Tuesday, his first defeat since falling 9-4 to San Diego on July 27.
The right-hander is 4-9 with a 4.26 ERA in 19 games - 18 starts - against the Cubs and 1-1 with a 2.37 ERA in three starts versus them this season.