"Mr. Clutch" Does It Again

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Just call him "Mr. Clutch" again. Alex Gonzalez drove the first pitch he saw in the ninth inning from closer Matt Mantei into the left-center field seats to give the Cubs a 4-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks Wednesday, thus avoiding a three-game sweep.

Joe Borowski notched his fifth save by recording the final three outs in the bottom of the inning.

After sleepwalking through the series' first two games, the Cubs offense jumped on Diamondbacks rookie Casey Daigle in the game's first inning.

Todd Walker led off the game with an eight-pitch walk before Corey Patterson doubled off the centerfield wall to make it 1-0 Cubs early.

Then, after a Sammy Sosa strikeout and Moises Alou groundout, Aramis Ramirez would double to center, scoring Patterson from second and giving Cubs starter Greg Maddux a 2-0 lead before ever taking the mound.

The Diamondbacks quickly cut the lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the second when Steve Finley hit the first of three solo homers--this one to deep center. Later that inning, Maddux escaped a dangerous situation by producing yet another bases loaded, two-out strikeout similar to the one in the second inning of Friday's start against the New York Mets.

With one out, Arizona catcher Robby Hammock followed a Chad Tracy walk with a single to right, putting runners at first and second. Then, after Daigle flied out, 2B Matt Kata walked to load the bases. With the bases full, Maddux fell behind SS Donnie Sadler, 3-1, but battled back to ultimately get Sadler on a breaking ball.

From there, it was vintage Maddux, with the lone exception being Finley's second solo homerun of the night in the bottom of the sixth to cut the Cubs lead to 3-2.

That score would hold up going into the bottom of the eighth. With one out, first baseman Richie Sexson tried to check his swing on a LaTroy Hawkins breaking ball, but appeared to seriously injure himself in the process, immediately letting go of the bat and dropping to a knee. Sexson was forced to leave the game and was replaced by pinch-hitter Carlos Baerga, who finished the at-bat with a groundout to second.

That set the stage for the pesky Finley, who ripped a Hawkins (1-0) breaking ball into the seats in right to tie the game at 3-3, and force Maddux's 291st career win to wait at least one more start in the process.

After Gonzalez's homerun in the top of the ninth, Borowski worked the bottom half of the inning and once again provided all of the drama.

LF Luis Gonzalez made the final out of the ballgame on a flyball that sent Patterson to the warning track in center, some 410 feet away.

Despite not earning the win, Maddux pitched well, allowing two runs and six hits in six innings of work. Meanwhile, Daigle turned in his best start of the season, giving up three runs on just three hits in seven innings.

Hawkins picked up his first victory of the year, with Mantei (0-3) taking the loss for Arizona.

The Cubs now head to St. Louis with a one game lead in the Central Division. On Friday, the Cubs and Cardinals open up what should be a heated 4-game series. The last time the two arch-rivals met was last September in an epic series at Wrigley Field that saw the Cubs win four of five games and send the Cardinals into a season-ending slide. Kerry Wood is set to take the ball in the opener on Friday for the Cubs. He will be opposed by right-hander Woody Williams.

NOTES: Cubs manager Dusty Baker and RHP Kerry Wood were both suspended prior to Wednesday's game, stemming from arguments with umpires C.B. Bucknor and Eric Cooper almost two weeks ago on April 16 and 17 at Wrigley Field. Baker was suspended only one game, while Wood was given five. Baker served his suspension during Wednesday's contest as bench coach Dick Pole served as interim skipper. Wood will appeal his suspension and make his next scheduled start on Friday night at Busch Stadium against the Cardinals.

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