CHICAGO – Cubs beat Phillies 5-4.
That first-place carrot was dangling in front of the Cubs’ noses again Wednesday night. This time, their pursuit of proved fruitful. About the time the clock was striking 10 at Wrigley Field, National League Central-leading Milwaukee was being finished off, suffering an 8-5 loss to the New York Mets. Some 40 minutes later, Matt Murton was racing home from third on a wild pitch, and the Cubs - 5-4 winners over the Philadelphia Phillies - had their first taste of first place since April 12, 2006. The Cubs and Phillies went into the ninth tied at 4-4 before a Wrigley Field crowd of 40,558. Murton led off the home half of the inning with a double off Brett Myers and moved to third on a wild pitch. After Ronny Cedeno walked and Jacque Jones walked - the latter intentionally - Jason Kendall struck out. But with Cliff Floyd pinch-hitting for Ryan Dempster, Myers’ pitch got away, and Murton tallied. The Cubs (57-49, .538) are ahead of the Brewers (58-50, .537) from a winning-percentage standpoint. The game started out as a battle of a young left-hander in the Cubs’ Rich Hill vs. a crafty veteran southpaw in Philadelphia’s 44-year-old Jamie Moyer. Hill was 4 years old when Moyer made his professional debut in the Cubs’ system at Class A Geneva. But the way Hill, now 27, pitched in the first inning, it appeared he was the one who had logged more than 3,400 major league innings. After the Phillies loaded the bases with no outs, Hill struck out Ryan Howard swinging and Aaron Rowand looking. A wild pitch allowed a run to score, and Hill eventually walked Pat Burrell to reload the bases. But he induced Carlos Ruiz to ground out to end the potentially disastrous inning having allowed just one run. Hill threw three shutout innings after that while the North Siders piled up a 4-1 lead. Murton, Cedeno, Jones and Hill each drove in a run off Moyer. Hill, however, was pounded for four straight hits in the fifth, with a homer by Rowand tying the score at 4-4. Hill left after 4 2/3 innings, having allowed four runs on eight hits and three walks. Scott Eyre, limited to mopup duty recently, got the final out of the fifth and added a scoreless sixth, his seventh straight appearance without allowing a run. Carlos Marmol, Bob Howry and Dempster held the Phillies scoreless in the seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez didn’t start because of his injured left knee, but he was expected back for today’s series finale. He pinch hit in the eighth inning and flied out to left. While manager Lou Piniella says there is a lot of baseball to be played and that the division and wild-card races shouldn’t be taken too seriously until after Labor Day, several members of the Cubs were watching the Mets-Brewers extra-inning game Tuesday night. And they weren’t passive when things weren’t going right for the Brew Crew. “We’re watching, but at the same time, we have to take care of our own business,” Jason Kendall said. Piniella claims he didn’t watch the game, which the Brewers won 4-2 in 13 innings. “I went home and watched a movie and went to bed,” Piniella said. “It was a movie with Charlton Heston - cowboys and Indians.” More Cubs coverage can be found at www.dailysouthtown.com/sports.