Ramirez homer gives Cubs 7-5 win over Cardinals

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CHICAGO (AP)—When the Chicago Cubs are in need of a big hit late in a game, Aramis Ramirez is the man they want at the plate.

Ramirez was 0-for-5 before hitting a game-winning, two-run homer in the 11th inning to give the Cubs a 7-5 victory against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday.

“It seems like every time there is a big moment in the game and Rammy is up he is winning the game for us,” Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot said. “He definitely has the flare for the dramatics and a knack to win games.”

Dennys Reyes (0-1), a left-hander normally used to face lefties, was forced to face to some right-handed batters with the Cardinals bullpen worn thin in the 11th inning.

He walked Alfonso Soriano leading off, then Kosuke Fukudome bunted into a fielder’s choice.

With two outs, Ramirez hit a 1-0 pitch from Reyes into the left-center bleachers for his third homer.

“It wasn’t fair, but if a guy can pull it off it’s him,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa about putting Reyes in a tough spot. “He’s got a ton of experience.”

Khalil Green homered for the Cardinals, who have dropped the last two games after winning the opener of a four-game series against the Cubs.

On Friday, trailing 7-6, Soriano hit a two-run home run to help give the Cubs a 8-7 victory.

“Execution has to improve. Same thing yesterday,” said La Russa. “They (Cubs) walked the leadoff man in the 10th and 11th inning and got away with it. That’s where our execution has to improve. Their execution was better than ours.”

Angel Guzman (1-0) pitched a scoreless 11th inning for his first career victory and Theriot had three hits for the Cubs.

The win ties Cubs with the Cardinals for first place in NL-Central.

“You win now, you have less to worry about in September. One win now counts the same as a win in September,” Ramirez said.

Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse couldn’t hold a 4-1 lead.

Theriot tripled to leadoff the fifth and Aaron Miles drove him in with a grounder back to Lohse.

With two outs, Lohse walked Soriano and Fukudome, and Derrek Lee doubled down the left-field line to tie the score at 4.

The Cubs took the lead in the sixth inning off Cardinals reliever Kyle McClellan. With two outs, Geovany Soto walked, Theriot singled and Miles followed with an RBI single off his former team to break a 4-all tie.

But the lead didn’t last long for the Cubs.

Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol retired the middle of the Cardinals order when he entered with two on and none out in the seventh, but allowed consecutive doubles to Chris Duncan and Yadier Molina in the eighth to tie the score.

Fukudome’s double in the third drove in Soriano for the Cubs’ first run.

Lohse was unable to back up a career-best three-hitter in a 3-0 win to Houston on Sunday. He allowed four runs on five hits in a no-decision. He had four strikeouts and walked two.

“It was one of those games where he (Lohse) had trouble finishing guys,” La Russa said.

Cubs starter Ryan Dempster, who was 14-3 and a 2.86 ERA at Wrigley Field last season, had a so-so first home start of 2009.

He gave up back-to-back walks to start the third inning, and after Lohse popped up a bunt attempt, Skip Schumaker singled in a run.

With two outs, Dempster walked Albert Pujols to load the bases and Ryan Ludwick extended his hitting streak to 21-games with a two-run single to put the Cardinals up 3-0.

Greene led off the fourth inning with his second homer of the season.

Dempster eventually settled down and retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced.

Notes

Cubs OF Milton Bradley has been suspended two games for arguing balls and strikes and making contact with umpire Larry Vanover. The discipline announced Saturday by Major League Baseball stems from an outburst in Thursday’s loss to the Cardinals. Bradley was caught looking at a called third strike with the bases loaded while pinch hitting in the sixth inning. Bradley, who was out of the starting lineup for the fifth straight game, will appeal the suspension. He grounded out in a pinch-hit appearance in the ninth. … Newly acquired Bears quarterback Jay Cutler threw the ceremonial first pitch and sang the seventh-inning stretch. … Pujols went 0-for-4 with a walk.

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