Dusty Baker had exhausted virtually every managerial ploy he could muster--a team meeting, a rearranged batting order and a greater resolve to remain calm under pressure.
"We're all taught not to panic," the Cubs manager said. "There is a thin line between urgency and panic."
When circumstances appeared most dire Wednesday night, Corey Patterson rapped a two-out, two-run homer off reliever Travis Phelps in the 11th inning to give the Cubs a 7-5 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.
The victory pulled the Cubs to within one game of NL wild-card leader San Francisco.
Executing the little things is not printed on the Cubs' calling card.
But Patterson went 3-for-6 with a stolen base. And Derrek Lee delivered one of the little things (a key sacrifice fly in the seventh inning) and one of the big things (a first-inning home run) as the Cubs solved Brewers All-Star Ben Sheets.
Cubs starter Matt Clement again was denied what he deserved. He had to settle for a no-decision after matching a career high of 13 strikeouts over seven innings.
He allowed three runs on five hits and walked one batter.
"Matt pitched well and we all got big hits," said Patterson, who might be rested for the series finale Thursday afternoon because of a sore right hamstring. "I really haven't faced Phelps this year. So basically I was taking the first pitch. I was going to take a strike. With two strikes I said, `OK, I am going to try to put it in play.' I made contact and swung pretty easy."
Patterson raised his batting average to .282.
Baker shook up the batting order, deploying Sammy Sosa in the fifth spot. Sosa, who volunteered to move down, went 0-for-5, including a pair of strikeouts.
The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Lee, batting second , clubbed his 25th home run of the season.
"It was just something I came up with in the middle of the night," Baker said of his decision to move Lee up in the lineup.
The Cubs went ahead 3-0 in the third inning when Patterson reached on an infield hit before stealing second. Nomar Garciaparra delivered a two-out double to score Patterson.
Cleanup hitter Moises Alou followed with an RBI single to left. The ball was misplayed by left fielder Geoff Jenkins for an error and Alou advanced to third. The error was the first by Jenkins since June 4, 2002, a stretch of 249 games.
The Brewers tied the game in the third on Russell Branyan's three-run homer after Scott Podsednik and Bill Hall had reached on infield hits.
"Sometimes you make one bad pitch and it hurts you," Clement said. "There were a couple of other bad ones I made during the night, but when it hurts you like that, it means a little bit more. I didn't feel it was a hung pitch [to Branyan]. It was in the wrong spot, especially to him. But I got into a pretty good rhythm after that."
Garciaparra put the Cubs ahead 4-3 in the fifth with his third double of the evening. Patterson had reached on a check-swing double along the left-field line before Garciapparra's drive.
The Cubs picked up another run in the seventh, but reliever Mike Remlinger gave up a two-run homer to Branyan in the eighth inning that tied the game 5-5.
The Brewers threatened in the 11th off Cubs reliever LaTroy Hawkins. Branyan opened with a bunt single and Jenkins reached on a base hit.
Brady Clark popped out on a bunt attempt for the first out. Craig Counsell then grounded into a fielder's choice. Pinch-hitter Wes Helms grounded out for the final out as Hawkins earned his 18th save.Copyright © 2015, CT Now