Cubs Win Fifth Straight; Lee Leads the Way

CINCINNATI, Ohio - On and off again all season, the Chicago Cubs are once again turning it on, and it couldn't come at a better time. Derrek Lee homered and drove in five runs as the Cubs, behind Carlos Zambrano, crushed the Cincinnati Reds 12-4 Friday at Great American Ball Park.

Zambrano (14-8) went seven innings, allowing a run on six hits. The right-hander also homered for the third time in his career--a sixth inning solo shot off reliever Mike Matthews. He improved his record to 2-0 with a 1.22 ERA in his last three starts.

Reds starter Luke Hudson did not face similar fate. The Cubs trounced on Hudson (3-2) after a three-run fourth inning that featured a two-run double by Lee to deep center. Michael Barrett followed with a sac fly to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead.

Hudson left after four innings, striking out five and walking four in only his seventh career start--all of which have come this season. He threw 90 pitches, 41 of which were used in the Chicago fourth.

With two on and one out in the fifth, Lee took an 0-1 pitch from right-hander Juan Padilla out to straight away center, making it 6-0. He finished with five RBIs on the night.

The Cubs batted around again in the eighth inning off Gabe White and ex-Cub Todd Van Poppel. Ben Grieve, pinch-hitting for Zambrano, hit a two-run double in the eighth and later added a solo homer in the ninth.

Todd Walker also pinch-hit and singled home a run in the eighth after Neifi Perez - making his sixth start in a row at short for the injured Nomar Garciaparra - doubled to score Grieve.

Right-handers Todd Wellemeyer and Sergio Mitre finished things off in relief. Wellemeyer looked shaky in the eighth, allowing three runs on as many hits. Mitre did not allow a ball to leave the infield, using 19 pitches to get out of the ninth.

The Cubs get set for game three of the series starting Saturday at 6:10 CDT with Greg Maddux facing Aaron Harang. The Cubs have won five straight and seven of nine. The Reds have lost 10 of 15 in September thus far.

Chicago entered play Friday a half-game behind San Francisco for the National League Wildcard. With both the Cubs and Astros winning, the Cubs maintain a 1 1/2 lead over Houston in the Wildcard standings. With Atlanta tomahawking Florida Friday, the Cubs now distance themselves from the Marlins with a four-game lead over Florida in the Wildcard race.

Game Notes: Aramis Ramirez, batting .340 for the month of September, added two hits after hitting three homers in the series opener Thursday. Ramirez has struck out only twice in the past one month, dating back to August 17 against Milwaukee.

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