Baker’s homer stuns Giants; Cubs stay alive
SAN FRANCISCO – Jeff Baker was a little leery of facing San Francisco closer Brian Wilson. After all, in three previous at-bats Baker struck out.
Not this time.
Baker hit a two-out, two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning and the Chicago Cubs staved off elimination in the NL Central for a day by handing the San Francisco Giants a blow to their postseason hopes with a 3-2 victory Thursday night.
“I was just hoping to make contact,” Baker said. “I’m not sure I’ve ever made contact off him before. He’s got great stuff.”
Had the Cubs lost, the St. Louis Cardinals would have clinched the Central. The Cardinals on Friday begins a three-game series against the NL wild card-leading Rockies, who lead the Braves by 3 1/2 games with San Francisco and Florida four behind. The Cubs trail Colorado by 6 1/2 games with 10 to play.
“Any time you can delay it and keep pushing this thing off it’s good,” Baker said. “You never know what might happen.”
Wilson (5-6) walked Derrek Lee, who was treated for neck spasms afterward, to open the inning but got Micah Hoffpauir and Mike Fontenot on infield popups before Baker hit his fourth home run on a two-strike pitch.
“I always felt I could be a run producer,” Baker said. “It was good to get (Ryan Dempster) off the hook and even better to get the win.”
Aaron Heilman (4-4) pitched the eighth to earn the victory and Carlos Marmol put two runners on in the ninth but finished for his 15th save in 19 chances, including 11 straight.
“I’ve always had a lot of confidence in myself,” Marmol said. “It’s always been my dream to be a closer in the major leagues.”
Kosuke Fukudome had two hits for the Cubs, who won their fourth in five games.
“It got awful quiet when Baker hit the home run,” Cubs’ manager Lou Piniella said. “Baker has done well since we’ve gotten him. He’s a tough kid, plays hard and is versatile.”
Giants starter Brad Penny outpitched his former teammate with the Florida Marlins with eight solid innings. He allowed a run and seven hits. He struck out four and walked one.
“It’s tough with the situation we’re in,” Penny said. “Even going into today we were in a tough spot. In a close game you have to be perfect.”
Ryan Dempster allowed two runs on seven hits in his seven innings. He walked one and struck out six.
“That was pretty awesome,” Dempster said.
John Bowker hit his first home run of the year and drove in two runs. The Giants lost for the second time in 75 games when leading after eight innings.
“It was a tough loss for all of us,” Bowker said. “He made some good pitches on us. He got a couple of pitches up on me and I was able to take advantage of them.”
The Cubs scored their first run in the fourth inning on Baker’s double play grounder. Hoffpauir doubled to lead off the frame and Fontenot singled ahead of Baker.
Bowker doubled in a run in the fourth and homered to lead off the seventh. The Giants lost their fourth in six games.
“We know what happened tonight. We had a chance to pick up a game,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We were one pitch from winning the game. It’s disappointing, there’s no way of getting around that.”
Dempster is 0-3 in 12 games, five starts, in San Francisco although he owns a career 3.43 ERA here.
NOTES: Giants OF Nate Schierholtz was given the night off with a slight case of food poisoning. … LHP Randy Wells (11-9, 3.00) will pitch Sunday’s series finale for the Cubs with LHP Ted Lilly moving to Wednesday’s doubleheader. … Giants C Bengie Molina left the game in the fifth inning with a contusion on a finger of his left hand, the result of a foul ball. … Giants 3B Pablo Sandoval extended his hitting streak to nine games with a first-inning single. … Lee stole his first base of the year on his first attempt.
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