Cubs a half-game back in wild-card

CHICAGO (AP) -- The Chicago Cubs made Frank Brooks' first major

league start one to forget.

Sammy Sosa homered for the first time in more than two weeks as

part of a five-run first inning, and Derrek Lee had three RBI in

Chicago's 7-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night.

"It's tough to have a game plan because you don't know what you

have," Lee said of facing a new pitcher. "It's basically go by

feel. We just attacked him."

Moises Alou and Neifi Perez also homered for the Cubs, who

pulled within a half-game of idle San Francisco in the NL wild-card


Brooks had been 0-0 with a 0.93 ERA in six relief appearances

for the Pirates. But he lasted only one inning as a starter,

allowing four earned runs, three hits and a walk.

"Obviously, it wasn't that good of an outing when you only go

one inning," Brooks said. "I was expecting to go at least five

innings, keep us in the game and give us a chance to win. But

that's not how it went."

Things went sour quickly as Perez, the Cubs' second batter who

isn't known for his power, homered to left on a 3-2 pitch. Brooks

(0-1) then walked Aramis Ramirez and Alou hit what should have been

a routine grounder to shortstop Jack Wilson.

But Wilson bobbled the catch and made another error with a wild

throw to first, allowing Ramirez to go to third and Alou to second.

Lee drove both home with a single to left, giving Chicago a 3-0


"We would have been out of the inning if Jack throws that

cleanly. It's probably a double play," Pirates manager Lloyd

McClendon said. "But you still need to make pitches."

The Cubs weren't done with Brooks, either. Sosa sent a 1-0 pitch

deep into the left-field stands for a two-run homer, his first

since Aug. 26. It was Sosa's 30th homer of the season, giving him

10 straight years with 30 or more.

Brooks finally got out of the inning when Mark Grudzielanek

grounded out and Paul Bako struck out. But the five-run lead was

more than enough support for Greg Maddux (14-9). Maddux, making his

600th career start, scattered five hits over seven scoreless

innings, striking out two while walking just one.

"He's tough when you give him a lead like that," McClendon

said. "I'm sure he hasn't lost many when he gets a five-run


The Pirates did have their chances, putting runners in scoring

position four times against Maddux. But the Cubs defense was

especially stingy -- Grudzielanek saved a run with a diving, two-out

catch in the third with men at first and third -- and Pittsburgh

couldn't bring any of the runners home.

"The defense was tremendous," Maddux said. "Everybody was

making some nice plays. Sometimes when you throw it down the

middle, they hit it hard and it goes right at somebody. That

happened a lot tonight."

The Pirates finally ended the shutout in the eighth inning.

Jason Kendall and Wilson singled, and Daryle Ward followed with a

liner to left. Alou had the ball in his mitt, but it bounced back

out like a super ball, allowing Kendall and Wilson to score.

"Tonight was a good night," Lee said. "It seems like we have

a couple of good games and then a bad one. So we've got to find a

way to eliminate the bad ones and stay on a roll."Game notes
Alou's homer in the eighth was his 35th, three shy of his

career high. ... Pirates rookie Jason Bay stole second in the

eighth, his third steal of the season. ... Wilson had gone 34 games

without an error before making a wild throw Sunday night. ... Cubs

reliever Kent Mercker began serving his suspension for yelling at

an umpire after it was reduced from three games to two Monday.