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Aramis Ramirez hits two two-run homers

CHICAGO (AP) -- Four days off suited Aramis Ramirez just fine.

Ramirez hit a pair of two-run homers and Carlos Zambrano allowed
four hits in eight innings to lead the Chicago Cubs to a 9-1
victory over the Montreal Expos on Monday.

Mark Grudzielanek, Derrek Lee and Michael Barrett also homered
for the Cubs, who played their first game since Wednesday's 2-1
extra-inning victory at Montreal. The Cubs had their last three
games against the Florida Marlins at Miami postponed because of
Hurricane Frances.

Ramirez took advantage off the long weekend to rest his sore
left groin, which has been bothering him since July.

"I feel a lot better. I'm not a 100 percent, but the four days
off really helped my groin," Ramirez said.

The Cubs took a half-game game lead over idle San Francisco in
the NL wild-card race. Houston stayed 1½ games back with a 11-5 win
over Cincinnati.

The Giants and the Astros moved closer in the standings, while
the Cubs remained idle during the weekend.

"It's kind of frustrating, but we will still have to play those
games, too," Ramirez said. "There is going to be a time when we
are playing and they will be off and we have to take advantage of
that, too."

Chicago won without Sammy Sosa in the lineup. The seven-time
All-Star has bursitis in his right hip and is listed as day to day.
The injury is not related to a lower back injury Sosa suffered
earlier in the season, which put him on the disabled list May 19
through June 18.

Zambrano (13-8) gave up one run, struck out five and walked one
to match his career high in wins. The right-hander has a league-low
2.17 ERA at home.

Cubs manager Dusty Baker is hoping that the Cubs' other four
starters -- Matt Clement, Greg Maddux, Kerry Wood and Mark Prior --
also have success with the four days off.

"You just hope they are as sharp as Carlos was today," Baker
said. "Strength is one thing, sharpness is something else."

Zambrano retired eight in a row before giving up a double to
Henry Mateo in the eighth. Zambrano came back by retiring the next
three in order, including striking out Valentino Pascucci to end
the inning.

Tony Armas Jr. (2-4) went just three innings, allowing seven
runs and seven hits -- including four homers -- as the Expos lost for
the fourth time in five games.

Montreal manager Frank Robinson will consider shutting down
Armas for the rest of the season. Armas was diagnosed with a
strained right elbow in August.

"It's certainly worth visiting the idea," Robinson said. "He
has a good outing, then the next time it's like he's starting over.
He's kind of stubborn and doesn't always think of his well-being."

Lee, who turned 29 on Monday, homered in the first inning with
two outs for his 29th of the season. He also hit No. 28 on his
birthday last season against the Expos.

"I have hit a couple of home runs on my birthday," Lee said.
"It is always a little bit cooler when you can get a home run on
your birthday."

Armas walked Moises Alou and Ramirez followed with a two-run
homer to right.

Grudzielanek led off the second with a homer to right-center,
making it 3-0.

Lee led off the third with a walk and scored on Alou's double.
Ramirez followed with his 29th homer, giving the Cubs a 7-0 lead.
It was his 10th multihomer game.

Juan Rivera doubled and scored on Alex Gonzalez's groundout in
the fourth inning.

Barrett hit a two-run homer off Rocky Biddle in the eighth.

Game notes
Ramirez had his third multihomer game of the season. ...
Cubs OF Ben Grieve, playing in place of Sosa in right, made a catch
against the ivy on Brad Wilkerson's ball in the fifth inning. When
making the catch, he hit the left side of his face on the wall and
the ivy and drew blood near his left eye. He was taken to the
hospital for precautionary X-rays on his left shoulder. ... Lee
left in the sixth inning with a sinus infection. ... Biddle felt a
burning sensation in the back of his right shoulder. He'll be
re-evaluated Tuesday.