Three Sheets to the Wind

One week after third baseman Aramis Ramirez came off the disabled list, he's helped put the Chicago Cubs on the cusp of their longest winning streak in six years.

Ramirez and the surging Cubs look to further cut into the Milwaukee Brewers' NL Central lead Saturday when the teams continue a three-game series at Wrigley Field.

Ramirez, who came off the 15-day disabled list on June 22 after being sidelined with patellar tendinitis, hit a game-winning homer off Brewers (46-33) closer Francisco Cordero on Friday in Chicago's 6-5 win, capping a rally from a five-run deficit.

"Even though we fell behind 5-0 in the first inning we never gave up. The bullpen did a great job and gave us a chance to come back and we did," Ramirez said.

"This is the team we have to beat, Milwaukee, and try to get close. ... When we win the game and I come in, everybody is jumping around because that was pretty special - the way we win and we beat the first-place team."

The Cubs (39-39) have won seven straight games since Ramirez returned from the DL, and are going for their first eight-game winning streak since a 12-game run from May 19-June 2, 2001. However, they are still 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Brewers, who are 12-3 since June 13.

"They are a pretty good team and if anybody can bounce back from a game like that, it's Milwaukee," said Ramirez, who is hitting .346 (9-for-26) with five RBIs since returning to the lineup. "They've been in first all year."

Ramirez is just 9-for-46 (.196) with one homer and seven strikeouts in his career against Milwaukee ace Ben Sheets (9-3, 3.09 ERA).

Sheets, who is looking to become the Brewers' first 10-game winner, is 5-0 with a 2.04 ERA over his last six starts, and has won three consecutive outings.

On Monday, the right-hander allowed one run and five hits over six innings of a 6-1 victory over the Houston Astros.

"I'm pitching well," Sheets said. "The only things that matters at the end of the day is limit the runs."

Sheets is 7-7 with a 3.94 ERA in 20 career starts against the Cubs, but has not defeated them since July 5, 2004. He is 0-5 with a 5.50 ERA and 10 home runs allowed in nine starts versus Chicago since that time. Sheets lasted three scoreless innings in an April 25 meeting at Wrigley before leaving with a groin strain.

The Cubs will counter with Sean Marshall (4-2, 2.44), who is 4-0 with a 2.32 ERA in five June starts, and has given up more than two earned runs only once in seven outings this season.

The 24-year-old left-hander had his first scoreless start of the year on Sunday, when he threw 6 1-3 innings in a 3-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox, allowing five hits and one walk while striking out three.

Marshall is 2-1 with a 2.13 ERA in three starts at Wrigley in 2007.

by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us

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