Cubs 5, Marlins 2

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CHICAGO (AP)—Derrek Lee was on the other side 11 months ago, leading the Florida Marlins to victory in the NL championship series en route to a surprising World Series title.

Now his job is to keep the Marlins from getting back to the playoffs and to help the Chicago Cubs return.

“I got a lot of friends over there. But you got to put it aside and go out there and win games,” Lee said Saturday after his three-run double in the eighth sent the Cubs to a 5-2 victory.

The Cubs lead San Francisco, 5-3 winners over Arizona, by two percentage points in the wild-card race. Houston fell a game back with their 5-2 loss in Pittsburgh. Chicago dropped the Marlins 2 1/2 games back.

“I can’t say it does mean more to beat your former team because I didn’t like leave on a bitter note,” said Lee, traded to the Cubs in the offseason. “These are big games, so it feels good to win. They mean a lot.”

Lee, who had key hits for the Marlins last October in both Game 6 and Game 7 of the NLCS at Wrigley Field, has been a steady presence in the field and at the plate for the Cubs. And he’s got the postseason experience after helping the Marlins beat the Yankees for the World Series championship last season.

“We were talking about it today. How funny it is. You play 130-some odd games, and you got three teams tied for the wild card,” Lee said. “It’s pretty rare, so it’s going to be fun and will probably come down to the last week. Whoever gets on a roll will probably come out of it.”

The Cubs came back from a 2-0 deficit and tied the game in the eighth on an RBI single by Sammy Sosa, who was dropped to sixth in the batting order for the first time in 10 years and was booed loudly after striking out in his first two at-bats.

“I don’t have a problem with that,” Sosa said of the batting order change. “If that is going to help the ballclub, it’s OK with me.”

Neifi Perez hit an infield single to shortstop, and when Alex Gonzalez’s low throw got by Jeff Conine for an error, Perez raced to second and slid around Luis Castillo’s tag. Sosa delivered a tying RBI single.

After Guillermo Mota (9-6) plunked Mark Grudzielanek with a pitch and Michael Barrett struck out while trying to bunt, Matt Perisho relieved and gave up an infield single to pinch-hitter Todd Walker that loaded the bases.

Following a lineout, Lee drove a 3-2 pitch from Rudy Seanez to left center, clearing the bases. Ryan Dempster (1-1) got the win in relief of Carlos Zambrano, and LaTroy Hawkins pitched the ninth for his 21st save in 27 chances.

“Our bullpen is our strong suit, but it didn’t pay off today,” Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. “Guys are due to have a rough outing every once in a while. Missed opportunities have been piling up.”

Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis pitched 6 2-3 solid innings and left after giving up a single to Corey Patterson in the seventh with the Marlins ahead 2-0.

With Mota pitching, Patterson stole second and Lee walked before Aramis Ramirez hit an RBI single that made it 2-1. Mota then got a called third strike past Moises Alou.

Zambrano allowed two runs—one earned—and six hits in seven innings, while Willis gave up one run and six hits.

The Marlins manufactured their first-inning run after Castillo bunted for a single and raced to second when Zambrano fielded it and threw wildly to first for an error. Castillo moved up on a grounder and scored on Barrett’s passed ball.

Mike Lowell doubled in the second and scored on Gonzalez’s two-out, broken-bat single.

Notes

Cubs RHP Matt Clement will miss his scheduled start Sunday because of a sore muscle in his back and neck. Clement left his last two starts prematurely because of the injury. He probably will pitch Tuesday against Pittsburgh. Glendon Rusch will start in his place Sunday. … SS Nomar Garciaparra, dropped from third to fifth in the batting order, left after the fifth inning and was replaced by Ramon Martinez. Garciaparra said he tweaked his groin and will probably sit out Sunday. … Asked what kind of reception the Marlins might get Monday and Tuesday when they play Montreal at U.S. Cellular Field, McKeon wasn’t sure. “I have no idea. I imagine we’ll have a lot of White Sox fans and lot of Cubs fans who will come over there and root for us,” McKeon said tongue-in-cheek while rolling his eyes. The games were moved to the White Sox’s home park because of Hurricane Ivan. It will be determined Monday where the remaining three games of the series will be played.

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