Stuck in a slump most of the season, the Cubs’ cleanup hitter is finally doing what he’s been known for most of his career in Chicago—driving the ball and knocking in runs.
Ramirez hit a solo homer with two outs in the bottom of the eighth Friday, sending the Cubs to a 4-3 comeback win over the Philadelphia Phillies.
“Yeah I feel pretty good at the plate. Even when I make out, I’ve been able to hit the ball hard,” Ramirez said. “That’s a good sign.”
Ramirez’s 11th homer came off Ryan Madson(notes) (2-1) and cleared the left field bleachers for his fifth homer and 14th RBI in the last eight games. He had three hits to raise his batting average to .220 as the Cubs beat the two-time defending NL champs for the second straight game.
“He’s staying on the ball well. He’s taking good swings at pitches and he’s driving the ball. It’s big difference from the first half. One of the ingredients that was missing here obviously,” Chicago manager Lou Piniella said. “And now it’s back.”
Ryan Howard(notes) hit his 20th homer with two outs in the sixth, a drive onto the roof of a batter’s eye seating section in straightaway center. It was his third home run in two games and it put the Phils up 3-1.
After Howard’s blast, the Cubs rallied for two in the bottom of the inning with a two-out rally of their own off Joe Blanton(notes) as Ramirez doubled and Marlon Byrd(notes) followed with his 10th homer, tying it at 3.
It appeared that some of the Phillies were not crazy about home plate umpire Marty Foster’s strike zone. Jayson Werth(notes) was called out three times. Philly fanned 14 times overall in the game—10 times against Lilly—and took eight called third strikes.
“He’s (Lilly) mostly around the plate. Some of the other guys the zone might have been a little big, expanded from what they were saying. It happens. I can only really speak for myself,” Howard said.
“That’s the way we’ve been hitting,” Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. “That’s why we’ve had trouble. We take a lot of strike three’s. We’ve been taking a lot (pitches). We haven’t hit for a long time.”
Blanton pitched seven innings and gave up five hits and three runs with three walks while tying a season-high with eight strikeouts.
Lilly, who can be a free agent after the season, has been the subject of numerous trade rumors and met Thursday with general manager Jim Hendry to discuss his Cubs’ future.
He made it clear he wants to stay, but knows it will be difficult for the Cubs to get back in the race at nine games under .500.
“His job is to do what is best for the organization,” Lilly said of Hendry.
And after two shaky starts in which he gave up 14 earned runs and 18 hits, Lilly retired the first 10 batters he faced before surrendering Victorino’s career-best 15th homer with one out in the fourth.
Lilly’s final line was similar to Blanton’s. He surrendered three runs and four hits in seven innings with a walk and his season-high 10 strikeouts.
Chicago tied the game in the fifth when Blanton walked Lilly, who was hitless in 26 at-bats this season, on a 3-2 pitch with two outs and the bases loaded.
“It was kind of an out-of-body experience,” Lilly said. “I don’t know why I swung at the pitches I swung at or why I laid off the ones I did. Fortunately it worked out.”
NOTES: Manuel said 3B Placido Polanco(notes) could be activated from the DL (sore left elbow) and be in the lineup Saturday. He’s been on a rehab assignment at Class A Clearwater. … Victorino hit 14 homers in 2008.