After two months of scuffling along, the Chicago Cubs are finally starting to hit.
Fred McGriff homered and almost did it a second time, and rookie Bobby Hill hit his first major league home run Thursday as the Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 11-6, at Chicago. It was their third consecutive victory.
"Every day you've got somebody picking another guy up, that's how you win ballgames," said McGriff, who had three runs batted in and is hitting .438 over the last six games.
"It's going to take a team effort day in and day out. The [second-place] Cardinals are playing real good right now, so we've got to get going."
Hill went three for five with four RBIs, coming within a double of hitting for the cycle. The Cubs outhit the Pirates, 15-10, and had double-digit runs for the first time since April 24.
Matt Clement (2-3) held the Pirates scoreless for five innings before giving up Jason Kendall's two-run double in the sixth inning.
Kris Benson (0-2) struggled again for the Pirates, who dropped a season-low four games below .500 with their third straight loss. The right-hander, who missed all of last season after elbow surgery, gave up seven runs and 11 hits in 31/3 innings.
"He's going to have some up and down days," Pirate Manager Lloyd McClendon said. "There's times when he will be good and other times he will not have his stuff. You just need to be patient."
St. Louis 5, Houston 4--J.D. Drew broke an eighth-inning tie with an RBI single as the Cardinals completed a three-game sweep at St. Louis.
The Cardinals have won five in a row and 12 of 14 and are two games behind first-place Cincinnati in the National League Central. They swept the Astros for the first time since Sept. 2-4, 1996, also at Busch Stadium.
Houston has lost four in a row after winning seven straight.
Jim Edmonds was three for four with his 11th homer for the Cardinals.
Miguel Cairo singled with one out in the eighth off Octavio Dotel (2-2). Fernando Vina greeted Billy Wagner, pitching for the first time in four days, with a double and Drew followed by lining a first-pitch fastball to right.
The Cardinals have 18 come-from-behind victories.
New York 1, Philadelphia 0--Pinch-hitter Mark Johnson's RBI double in the ninth inning broke a scoreless tie at Philadelphia.
Joe McEwing hit a one-out single off Jose Mesa (1-4), moved to second when Jeromy Burnitz was hit by a pitch and scored on Johnson's double to right.
Phillie starter Brandon Duckworth gave up five hits in eight shutout innings. It was his longest outing in 21 career starts.
Johnson, who had been six for 43 before the at-bat, ended an 0-for-15 slump with the drive over right fielder Bobby Abreu.
Florida 8, Cincinnati 4--Luis Castillo hit his first career homer from the left side, a three-run shot off Jose Rijo at Cincinnati.
Castillo had three hits for the second consecutive game, jump-starting an offense that has languished during the longest trip in Marlin history. Castillo has an 11-game hitting streak, going 23 for 49.
Florida is 3-7 on its 14-game trip, tumbling from first in the NL East.
Rijo (4-2) lost for only the second time since he rejoined the rotation, completing his comeback from five elbow operations. He lost his control in the fourth, then made one bad pitch to the switch-hitting Castillo that turned the game.
Castillo's homer was so unexpected that pitcher Julian Tavarez stopped at third after the ball barely cleared the right-field wall. He looked around to see what had happened before proceeding.