Lee, Patterson chase the gloom
It was difficult to determine the most unbelievable scene Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

Was it Cincinnati manager Dave Miley opting to pitch to red-hot Derrek Lee with two on, first base open and a three-run lead in the seventh inning?

Was it embattled Cubs reliever LaTroy Hawkins getting a standing ovation after striking out the last two hitters he faced in a perfect ninth?

Or was it Corey Patterson being buried under a pinstriped pile of Cubs players after smoking a walk-off home run in the ninth inning of an 8-7 comeback victory over the Reds?

They all would be good choices on an otherwise gloomy day.

The Cubs bounced back from an early five-run deficit to stun the Reds thanks to Lee's 4-for-4, two-homer, six-RBI performance that set the stage for Patterson's shot off Matt Belisle.

How big was this victory?

"This game is not bigger than any other win," Patterson insisted afterward.

But Lee said that was not manager Dusty Baker's feeling.

"Dusty said before the game, 'We have to have this game,'" Lee said.

There was no denying it was a good way to end a stormy homestand for the Cubs, who now head to Houston for a three-game series with the Astros beginning Friday.

The game turned in the seventh when Patterson's fly to right advanced runners to second and third with one out. Instead of having reliever Joe Valentine intentionally walk Lee—who already had a two-run homer in the sixth and had homered off Valentine on April 19 in Cincinnati—Miley opted not to put the tying run on base and take his chances with Jeromy Burnitz.

"Burnitz can hit the ball out of the ballpark too," Miley said. "We made some bad pitches to Lee and he made us pay for it."

Lee promptly cranked a three-run shot to left that tied the game and earned him a curtain call from the crowd of 38,014.

Lee's six RBIs give him 27 for the month, breaking Billy Williams' unofficial franchise record of 25 in April 1970. Records before 1969 are sketchy, but Lee's April RBI totals are believed to be the most of any Cub, according to a club researcher.

All the more amazing, considering Lee began 2005 as a career .228 hitter in April.

"I normally don't get going in the spring," Lee said. "But this year I did and it carried over."

Lee went into Wednesday night's action leading the National League in average (.430), homers (7), RBIs (27) and total bases (63).

"Just leave him alone and let it ride," Baker said. "Don't try to figure it out."

Ryan Dempster, who put the Cubs in a 6-1 hole by giving the Reds five runs in the third inning, was elated Lee, who played alongside him in Florida, helped prevent him from taking the loss.

"I was surprised they were pitching to him," Dempster said. "I owe him a steak dinner, absolutely. That hook was hanging in the corner of my mouth, and he let me spit it out."

Glendon Rusch and Hawkins, respectively, pitched perfect innings in the eighth and ninth.

Belisle, who served up four home runs to Cubs hitters in a three-inning start on April 18 in Cincinnati, retired the first batter he faced in the ninth before Patterson launched one six rows into the right-center field bleachers.

Patterson, who seems more comfortable in the No. 3 hole, raised his right index finger as he circled first base and his teammates mobbed him at home plate. The Cubs (11-10) ended the brief homestand 3-2, and the bullpen did its job.

"I'm glad Hawk got the victory and we finally came all the way back," Baker said. "We've been coming back almost every game, just not all the way back."

psullivan@tribune.com