LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Derrek Lee is making the art of hitting look
awfully easy these days.
Lee matched his career high with five hits including a three-run
homer, raising his major league-leading batting average to .380 and
leading the Chicago Cubs to a 9-5 victory over the Los Angeles
Dodgers on Wednesday night.Lee's 17th homer off Duaner Sanchez with two outs in the eighth
tied Alex Rodriguez for the major league lead and lifted his big
league-best RBI total to 50."I've played with a lot of great players. This is the best
streak I've ever seen," Cubs catcher Michael Barrett said, shaking
his head.Lee also ranks among the top five in runs scored with 41 and
hits with 71.Lee was 5-for-5 and Neifi Perez was 4-for-5 as Chicago extended
its winning streak to a season-high six games. Perez also hit a
three-run homer to help the Cubs sweep a three-game series at
Dodger Stadium for the first time since May 1995 and move a
season-high three games over .500."It was a great night for the whole team," Lee said.The 29-year-old first baseman has gone 17-for-29 with five
homers and 11 RBI in his last seven games."It's one of those grooves where you're just seeing the ball.
It feels like slow motion," Lee said. "I'm not doing anything
different. I'm seeing the ball well, getting good at-bats."Lee hit a career-high .282 while playing for the Florida Marlins
in 2001. He had career-high totals of 32 homers and 98 RBI with
the Cubs last season."The guy's been unbelievable," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.
"He's locked in pretty good. That three-run homer made us all feel
a lot, lot better."The Cubs led 6-5 before Perez and Enrique Wilson hit two-out
singles in the eighth. Lee then hit a 2-1 pitch from Sanchez over
the left field wall to complete the scoring."As hot as he is and as well as he's swinging the bat, if you
mislocate pitches in the middle of the plate to this guy, you're
going to pay for it," Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. "When you
lead in all offensive categories that would qualify you for the
Triple Crown. It's very obvious that he's really beginning to find
himself offensively."John Koronka (1-0) allowed three runs and six hits in five
innings to earn the victory in his big-league debut. Koronka, a
24-year-old left-hander who has pitched in 165 minor league games,
walked three and struck out four."It feels great," Koronka said. "First game, get a win, it's
unbelievable."Koronka made his debut before a sellout crowd of 54,093."I got out there and saw all those people, it kind of pumped me
up," he said.Six of the first 10 Chicago batters hit safely off Derek Lowe
(4-5), pitching on his 32nd birthday. Lowe was lifted after
allowing a season-high 13 hits and six runs in 5 2-3 innings.Lowe, who entered with a 4-1 record and a 2.52 ERA at Dodger
Stadium, sustained a small cut on his right wrist while throwing a
stool in anger in the Dodgers' dugout after the Cubs scored four
runs in the second, but it didn't keep him from continuing to
pitch."It didn't affect one pitch," Lowe said. "All we had to do
was stop the bleeding, and once we did that, it was fine. Jim
Tracy's a very smart man and a good manager, so he wouldn't have
kept putting me out there inning after inning if he thought what I
was throwing up there was being affected by my wrist."The slumping Dodgers have lost 24 of 38 games since going 12-2
to start the season, dropping them to .500 for the first time since
they split their first two games.The Cubs went ahead for good in the second on Todd
Hollandsworth's run-scoring infield hit and Perez's two-out,
three-run homer.The Dodgers scored three times in the third on an RBI double by
J.D. Drew and a two-run homer by Olmedo Saenz.The Cubs made it 6-3 on an RBI double by Walker in the fifth and
Lee's two-out, run-scoring single in the sixth that chased Lowe.The Dodgers drew within one run again when Jason Phillips hit a
leadoff homer off Joe Borowski in their half of the sixth and
Jayson Werth greeted reliever Michael Wuertz with a sacrifice fly
in the seventh.
The Cubs got 16 hits off four Los Angeles pitchers and have
had 10 or more hits in every game during their winning streak. ...
Koronka was recalled from Triple-A Iowa of the Pacific Coast
League. To make room, the Cubs optioned RHP Jon Leicester to Iowa.
... Dodgers 3B Antonio Perez played despite being beaned by Cubs
reliever Ryan Dempster in the 10th inning Tuesday night. Perez,
batting second for the first time this season, went 1-for-5. ...
Cubs 3B Aramis Ramirez didn't play because of a sore right ankle.
He was injured while running out a single in the ninth inning
Tuesday night. Baker said he hoped Ramirez would return to the
lineup Thursday night in San Diego. ... Koronka became the ninth
Cubs pitcher to start a game this season. They used only seven
starters all of last year. ... Dodgers SS Cesar Izturis had two
hits for his major league-leading 28th multihit game of the season.