MILWAUKEE—The Cubs began a two-week road trip without Sammy Sosa on Monday, hoping to find a hero or two to get them through a grueling stretch.
No Sammy? No problem.
Brewers in Miller Park, sending Mark Prior to his fifth victory in six decisions.
"This is going to be a good test to really find out if we're that good of a team," said Moises Alou, who went 4-for-6 with a home run and two RBIs. "I think we are. Don't get me wrong--we need Sammy here. But it's nice to see we managed to score a lot of runs without him. Hopefully we can do that until he comes back. He's the main guy here."
Alou is 11-for-22 in his last five games and has homered in three straight, assuming the role as kingpin of the offense in Sosa's absence.
The Cubs finished with a season-high 19 hits while winning their second straight game since Sosa was disabled.
Wisconsin native Damian Miller and Troy O'Leary also homered, while Mark Grudzielanek went 4-for-5 in a return to the leadoff spot. Six different players drove in at least one run as the Cubs retained a 1 1/2-game lead over Houston in the NL Central and improved to 21-16.
Prior (5-1) threw 124 pitches in a six-inning stint, the most he has thrown since a 136-pitch complete-game win over Colorado on Aug. 4, 2002. He allowed four runs on seven hits and wasn't particularly dominant, giving up his first two home runs of the year and allowing two or more baserunners every inning from the second through the fifth.
"It wasn't the prettiest game as far as my pitching," Prior said. "I made some mistakes. I was fortunate the offense kind of picked me up."
But everything is relative when it comes to Prior, who is tied for the league lead in victories. Even in what might be called an ordinary outing, he still managed to strike out 11, the eighth time in 27 career starts he has finished in double digits in strikeouts.
The game was tied 2-2 in the fourth inning when the Cubs applied the knockout punch to left-hander Glendon Rusch (1-7), who suffered his sixth straight loss.
Rusch gave up 13 hits and eight runs in 3 1/3 innings, though two of the runs were charged to him when ex-Cub Brooks Kieschnick entered and immediately gave up a three-run homer to Miller.
The seven-run inning was the biggest by the Cubs since they posted a 10-spot against the Brewers last Aug. 29 in Miller Park.
The Cubs' offense obviously isn't one of its strengths, and Sosa's absence will be felt in the long run. Yet they entered Monday's game ranked fifth in runs scored, fifth in batting average and third in on-base percentage before blitzing the Brewers.
"That's still pretty good, considering that when the season started all everybody talked about was we didn't have enough offense," manager Dusty Baker said.
"We're still doing pretty good offensively--better than most."