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Cubs a half-game back in wild-card

CHICAGO (AP) -- The Chicago Cubs made Frank Brooks' first major
league start one to forget.

Sammy Sosa homered for the first time in more than two weeks as
part of a five-run first inning, and Derrek Lee had three RBI in
Chicago's 7-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night.

"It's tough to have a game plan because you don't know what you
have," Lee said of facing a new pitcher. "It's basically go by
feel. We just attacked him."

Moises Alou and Neifi Perez also homered for the Cubs, who
pulled within a half-game of idle San Francisco in the NL wild-card
race.

Brooks had been 0-0 with a 0.93 ERA in six relief appearances
for the Pirates. But he lasted only one inning as a starter,
allowing four earned runs, three hits and a walk.

"Obviously, it wasn't that good of an outing when you only go
one inning," Brooks said. "I was expecting to go at least five
innings, keep us in the game and give us a chance to win. But
that's not how it went."

Things went sour quickly as Perez, the Cubs' second batter who
isn't known for his power, homered to left on a 3-2 pitch. Brooks
(0-1) then walked Aramis Ramirez and Alou hit what should have been
a routine grounder to shortstop Jack Wilson.

But Wilson bobbled the catch and made another error with a wild
throw to first, allowing Ramirez to go to third and Alou to second.
Lee drove both home with a single to left, giving Chicago a 3-0
lead.

"We would have been out of the inning if Jack throws that
cleanly. It's probably a double play," Pirates manager Lloyd
McClendon said. "But you still need to make pitches."

The Cubs weren't done with Brooks, either. Sosa sent a 1-0 pitch
deep into the left-field stands for a two-run homer, his first
since Aug. 26. It was Sosa's 30th homer of the season, giving him
10 straight years with 30 or more.

Brooks finally got out of the inning when Mark Grudzielanek
grounded out and Paul Bako struck out. But the five-run lead was
more than enough support for Greg Maddux (14-9). Maddux, making his
600th career start, scattered five hits over seven scoreless
innings, striking out two while walking just one.

"He's tough when you give him a lead like that," McClendon
said. "I'm sure he hasn't lost many when he gets a five-run
lead."

The Pirates did have their chances, putting runners in scoring
position four times against Maddux. But the Cubs defense was
especially stingy -- Grudzielanek saved a run with a diving, two-out
catch in the third with men at first and third -- and Pittsburgh
couldn't bring any of the runners home.

"The defense was tremendous," Maddux said. "Everybody was
making some nice plays. Sometimes when you throw it down the
middle, they hit it hard and it goes right at somebody. That
happened a lot tonight."

The Pirates finally ended the shutout in the eighth inning.
Jason Kendall and Wilson singled, and Daryle Ward followed with a
liner to left. Alou had the ball in his mitt, but it bounced back
out like a super ball, allowing Kendall and Wilson to score.

"Tonight was a good night," Lee said. "It seems like we have
a couple of good games and then a bad one. So we've got to find a
way to eliminate the bad ones and stay on a roll."

Game notes
Alou's homer in the eighth was his 35th, three shy of his
career high. ... Pirates rookie Jason Bay stole second in the
eighth, his third steal of the season. ... Wilson had gone 34 games
without an error before making a wild throw Sunday night. ... Cubs
reliever Kent Mercker began serving his suspension for yelling at
an umpire after it was reduced from three games to two Monday.