Cubs "Lee-n" on Lee, Win in Extras

No matter who the Cubs trot out in the closer's role these days, failure is not far behind. Ryan Dempster got his first save chance of the season and gave up a one-run lead that would eventually force extra innings. That aside, Derrek Lee carried the team to victory with a walk-off home run straight into the wind in the 10th inning to give the Cubs the series and a 4-3 victory over the New York Mets at cloudy, 49-degree Wrigley Field Wednesday.

Lee's home run was his team-best 10th of the year. He has now hit safely in 21 of his last 22 games.

"It was cold out there," Lee told reporters afterward. "I'm just glad we got that game over with. It was a big win. I had a lot of doubts (about the home run). As I was watching it, I was thinking, ‘Man, that ball's not going to make it.' "

Mark Prior started and once again should have gotten a victory. He went seven innings, allowing two runs (one earned) and two hits to go with seven strikeouts.

The Cubs scored three runs in the second inning and led until the ninth when Dempster (2-3) blew the team's fifth save this season. Pinch-hitter Eric Valent tied the game with two outs on a line drive single to left-center.

(Dempster was taken to a hospital after the game for X-rays on his right forearm. He was hit by a Mike Piazza line drive that closed out the Mets' 10th.)

In the bottom of the ninth, the Cubs loaded the bases with one out, but Neifi Perez grounded back to the mound for a 1-2-3 inning-ending double play. An inning later, Lee worked the count to 3-2 before ending the game off rookie Heath Bell (0-1).

Manager Dusty Baker told reporters afterward, "I guess we don't do anything the easy way, but the main thing is we got it done … I'm just glad we won."

Baker also praised his starter, who suffered his second straight no-decision following another ninth-inning misfortune by the bullpen.

"Mark was outstanding," Baker said. "He threw a lot of pitches early, which is why he couldn't go any deeper. We have him on an unwritten pitch limit and he had reached that limit. It was the second start in a row that he left with the lead. I guess we just have to get him more runs. He's throwing the ball very well."

Prior now has a 1.33 ERA in four starts at Wrigley this season.

"I was throwing the ball good, down and away," Prior said. "I just wasn't getting some strikes. I finally told (Henry) Blanco, ‘Hey, if they hit it out, tip your hat and let's go. With the way the wind was blowing, not much was going to go out. You tip your hat to D-Lee for getting it through the wind."

Next up for the Cubs (15-18) are the surprisingly competitive Washington Nationals (18-15, 3 GB) at RFK Stadium beginning Friday at 6:05 CDT (TV: Comcast Sports Net Plus). Entering play Wednesday, Washington led the National League with a .278 team batting average.

Actor and Cubs fan Gary Sinise sang "Take Me out to the Ballgame." Sinise has been a regular contributor of the celebrity-laced seventh inning stretch since the Cubs enacted the tradition in 1998.


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