Hellish Era Ends on High Note

Busch Stadium. Within its unmistakable walls of baseball fame also contains countless, often downright unforgettable memories of misery and suffering at the Chicago Cubs' expense.

And for a moment on Wednesday night, it appeared as though the evil baseball demons that have haunted the Cubs over the years in St. Louis might land one more sucker punch.

Instead, the Cubs bid adieu to Busch Stadium by beating the team with the National League's best record, 2-1. The Cubs took two of three in the series and finished the year with a 5-3 record at Busch. All-time, they ended with a 141-190 mark at the 40-year home of the Redbirds.

Greg Maddux earned his 317th career victory and 12th of the season in the Cubs' farewell contest at Busch. Maddux (12-11) threw 5.2 innings of scoreless ball despite allowing seven hits. He struck out four and walked two, and is now one win shy of tying Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro for 15th place on major league baseball's all-time wins list.

Mark Mulder (15-7) went the distance for the Cardinals, allowing two runs and 10 hits. Take away the Cubs, and Mulder's last loss came on June 22 at Cincinnati. The Cubs beat the left-hander on August 11 at Wrigley after scoring seven runs on nine hits in four innings.

With Wednesday's victory, the Cubs improved to 8-4 overall against the Cardinals in 2005. Not bad for a team playing with a fork in them, you might say. The two teams still have one series remaining this season, which will take place Sept. 15-18 at Wrigley Field.

Ryan Dempster notched his 24th save, allowing one hit and throwing a wild pitch. He struck out Abraham Nunez looking for the final out, stranding the tying run at third and causing a predictable outburst from Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa. LaRussa and Nunez both had confrontations with home plate umpire Lance Barksdale after the game despite several close calls going the home team's way in the ninth inning. Dempster has converted 10 straight save chances and 24 of 26 overall.

In the race for National League MVP, Derrek Lee finished the series 5-for-13 with a home run and two RBIs. His first base counterpart, Albert Pujols, was 5-for-10 with two home runs and four RBIs in the series. Pujols had three hits in Wednesday's game and hit his 37th homer of the year for the Cardinals' only run of the night. He is batting .337 on the year; Lee is batting .344.

The Cubs, now 68-71 and a full seven games back of Wildcard-leading Houston, head to San Francisco for a four-game series against the Giants beginning Thursday at 9:05 p.m. CDT. Twelve-game winners Carlos Zambrano (12-5, 3.16 ERA) and Noah Lowry (12-11, 3.71 ERA) are scheduled to start the series opener. Lowry has won six straight starts while Zambrano has won four straight decisions and eight of his last nine overall.

The Cubs posted winning seasons at Busch Stadium in four consecutive years from 1992 to 1995. Before Wednesday's victory, you'd have had to go all the way back to '95 to find the last time the Cubs completed any regular season with a winning record at Busch.

Happy trails.

Information from the Cubs' Media Relations Department was used in this report.


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