Cubs snap 7-game skid with rout of Brewers

CHICAGO -- Stumbling offense, bumbling defense, grumbling fans. It was shaping up as a typical fiasco for the fifth-place Chicago Cubs.

Then Starlin Castro, a 20-year-old rookie who knows nothing of curses, jinxes and 102 years of futility, legged out an infield single. And the Cubs were off and running.

Held to two hits through five innings by Milwaukee starter Manny Parra, the Cubs put up 14 hits the rest of the way and went on to snap a seven-game losing streak with a 15-3 victory.

"Young guys have a lot of energy," said Cubs catcher Geovany Soto, who added a homer and five RBIs. "You see him coming in this morning, when everybody's a little bit down, and he's all jumpy and wired. We've got to feed off of that."

Castro finished with a career-high four hits to raise his average to .318, pinch hitter Aramis Ramirez capped a six-run sixth inning with a three-run homer, and Blake DeWitt drove in four runs as the Cubs avoided matching the longest skid of Lou Piniella's four years as manager.

Outscored 67-20 during the streak -- which included Monday's 18-1 loss to Milwaukee -- the Cubs responded with their highest-scoring game this year.

"It feels good to be on the other side," said Piniella, who is retiring after a season in which his Cubs will be regarded as perhaps baseball's biggest underachievers.

The Brewers lost for the sixth time in eight games, and tempers boiled over in the seventh. LaTroy Hawkins was ejected after hitting Alfonso Soriano with a pitch after serving up Soto's three-run homer, and Milwaukee manager Ken Macha was tossed for arguing with umpire Tom Hallion.

Macha has been fuming that Cubs reliever Brian Schlitter should have been tossed for beaning Carlos Gomez on Monday. He wasn't in a mood to chat about it Wednesday, either.

"Why don't you guys do whatever you want?" Macha asked the media. "That's just a situation of beating a dead horse."

Ryan Dempster (9-8) allowed three hits and no earned runs in six innings to improve to 5-0 with a 2.48 ERA in his last six starts against Milwaukee.

"We got our cake handed to us in Colorado and then the first couple games of this series," said Dempster, who lasted only four innings in last week's 17-2 loss to the Rockies. "It's been a rough go. It was great to see the guys swing the bats the way they did."

It even was a good day for Carlos Zambrano, who pitched a scoreless seventh inning a few hours after learning he would return to the rotation Monday at San Francisco.

The $91.5 million former staff ace -- who is 12-14 with a 4.63 ERA in 55 outings since a no-hitter late in the 2008 season -- was suspended, sent to anger-management counseling and banished to the bullpen after a June 25 dugout tirade.

Thanks to an error by third baseman Jeff Baker and Corey Hart's two-run double, the Brewers took a 3-1 lead. Parra (3-9) couldn't survive the sixth, though, and is 0-4 with an 8.56 ERA since last winning July 3.

Castro started the rally with his infield hit off Parra's leg. After Derrek Lee struck out, Parra walked Marlon Byrd and gave up Soto's RBI single. Parra fanned Alfonso Soriano before giving up consecutive RBI singles to DeWitt and Baker as the Cubs took a 4-3 lead.

"I had a chance to get out of the inning unscathed and I just didn't make the pitch I needed to make," Parra said. "Everything kind of stayed up in the zone."

Ramirez then homered on reliever Todd Coffey's third pitch. After hitting three home runs and driving in seven on July 20, Ramirez had batted .186 with no homers and two RBIs. He was surprised he wasn't in the starting lineup, although Piniella often rests veterans when a day game follows a night game.

"I don't like pinch hitting. It's hard," Ramirez said. "But it worked out for the team. We lost seven in a row and we needed a win."

After Soto's homer made it 10-3, the Cubs scored five more in the eighth on Lee's 400th career double, Soto's RBI single and DeWitt's three-run homer.

Game notes
Chicago OF Tyler Colvin homered for the only run in the first five innings off Parra. It was his 17th, the most by a left-handed-hitting Cubs rookie since Mel Hall hit 17 in 1983. ... Brewers LHP Randy Wolf expects to take the mound as scheduled Saturday against Houston. He was hit on the left wrist by a line drive in his last start, but X-rays and an MRI exam revealed no damage.