Cubs now half-game out of Central lead

CHICAGO (AP) -- Now THAT was a series, five games of spirited
baseball that the Chicago Cubs turned into four emotional victories
over the St. Louis Cardinals.

"If you weren't a fan and you watched this series, you became
one," Tony Womack said Thursday after his RBI single pushed the
Cubs to a 7-6 victory and moved them within a half-game of the NL
Central lead.

The series featured a little bit of everything: a rain delay of
more than four hours Monday; a day-night doubleheader that included
a 15-inning opener; the ejections of three Cubs players, including
Sammy Sosa on Thursday, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild; a
shouting match between managers Dusty Baker and Tony La Russa; and
a stunning comeback by the Cubs to win Wednesday after trailing

All in front of large, lively crowds at Wrigley Field.

"I think a lot of people will remember this," Baker said. "I
talked to a lot of people and they said this is the best five-game
series they've ever seen, especially this late. But it's too early
to say if it is a turning point."

The Cubs trail Houston by a half-game, while the Cardinals are a
game behind the Astros in third place.

Baker and La Russa, whose blowup centered about pitching inside
and hitting batters, met for several minutes behind the cage during
batting practice and shook hands.

Their teams don't play again in the regular season.

"Every game could have gone either way and it went their way
except one," La Russa said. "There's a difference between a play,
a pitch or an at-bat and they had it. They had the edge over us."

Womack, who entered in a double switch in the top of the
seventh, singled in the bottom half off Mike DeJean (5-8), who had
walked Moises Alou and hit Aramis Ramirez with a pitch.

DeJean then got out of a bases-loaded jam by slipping a third
strike past Randall Simon called by plate umpire Bill Hohn, the
center of numerous complaints all day by the Cubs.

He ejected Sosa as he was walking back to the dugout after Sosa
apparently made a comment about a third strike call.

"I was cursing myself and he threw me out of the game," Sosa
said. "He heard me when I was cursing myself."

Baker argued, then returned to the field two pitches later when
Mark Grudzielanek was called out on a close play at second.

Fans began to throw cups on the field and the grounds crew had
to go to the warning track and clean up the debris.

In the fifth inning, Hohn ejected Rothschild, who was in the
dugout. Moments earlier, Hohn called a ball on a close pitch that
Cubs starter Shawn Estes apparently thought was a strike.

"I think the umpire crew was pretty fired up, too, and got
caught up in the emotions, too," Estes said.

The umpires were not available for comment after the game.

Sosa was the third Cubs player to be ejected during the heated
five-game series.

In the second game Tuesday, pitcher Antonio Alfonseca and left
fielder Moises Alou were ejected by Justin Klemm after he called
Alou's line drive down the left-field line foul. Crew chief Mike
Reilly said after the game that Alfonseca made contact with Klemm.

A high sky and bright sun caused plenty of problems Thursday.

Alou missed Albert Pujols' fly in the first that went for an RBI
double, and the Cards made it 2-0 on Miguel Cairo's grounder.

Eric Karros' RBI single and sacrifice flies by Alex Gonzalez and
Estes made it 3-2 Cubs in the third.

But the Cardinals loaded the bases on two singles and a walk in
the fifth and tied the game when Cairo's high pop behind second
fell between Kenny Lofton and Grudzielanek, scoring one run. Chris
Widger followed with a two-run double to give the Cards a 5-3 lead.

But Grudzielanek hit a two-run double and Alou's RBI double off
the fence in left finished Brett Tomko and gave the Cubs a 6-5

Pinch-hitter Mike Matheny had an RBI single off Mike Remlinger
(6-5) to tie the game in the seventh. Joe Borowski pitched the
ninth for his 24th save in 28 chances.

"The answer about whether we were ready to play is obvious. We
played our game," La Russa said. "We just weren't quite good

Game notes
Cardinals CF Jim Edmonds didn't start for a second straight
game because of a bruised knee. ... Troy O'Leary replaced Sosa in
right field.