A 9-5 victory over Milwaukee at Wrigley Field put them just 2 1/2 games behind the Brewers and Cardinals in the NL Central on the first night of an 11-game homestand against the Brewers, Cards and Braves.
"It's not our season, but certainly, 11 important games at home against two of the teams that are directly in front of us, and Atlanta, which has got a good ballclub," manager Lou Piniella said. "These are 11 tough games. We've got a chance to pick up some ground. We'll see."
The Cubs regained the .500 mark, at 38-38, and as poorly as they've played, they can still find themselves in first place before the homestand is over and the All-Star break begins. What should help the Cubs is that they're due to get third baseman Aramis Ramirez, outfielder Reed Johnson and reliever Angel Guzman off the disabled list by early next week.
"It's important we play well this homestand and finish strong going into the break," first baseman Derrek Lee said.
CUBS 9, BREWERS 5: 1B Derrek Lee hit a three-run homer and a grand slam to power the Cubs, who also got homers from C Geovany Soto and 3B Jake Fox. RHP Ryan Dempster won for the first time since May 30, going 6 2/3 innings and giving up four runs, three earned.
NOTES, ROSTER REPORT
--OF Sam Fuld led off Thursday for the second consecutive night in place of Alfonso Soriano. Fuld reached base three times. Piniella wants little to do with the idea of moving Soriano out of the leadoff spot, despite Soriano's low on-base percentage of .296, but Fuld might tempt him to do so. "Let's just see what we do," Piniella said.
--C Geovany Soto hit his eighth homer of the season Thursday. Of his last five hits, three have been for extra bases (homer, double, triple).
--INF/OF Jeff Baker was obtained from the Rockies for a minor league pitcher. Baker has been on the disabled list much of the season with a left hand injury. The Cubs say they like his versatility and offensive ability. To clear a room for Baker on the 40-man roster, INF/OF Ryan Freel was designated for assignment.
--RHP Angel Guzman will head to Class AAA Iowa on Friday for one final rehab appearance. Guzman has made one appearance for Class A Peoria as he rehabs from a right triceps strain. The Cubs expect to activate Guzman on Monday.
--3B Aramis Ramirez will play in three rehab games this weekend for Class A Peoria. Ramirez has been out since dislocating his left shoulder May 8. "We need his bat," manager Lou Piniella said. "We need his presence in the lineup. Not only that, but he gives us a real good glove at third base." If all goes well, Ramirez will return Monday.
--OF Reed Johnson will play in rehab games Saturday and Sunday for Peoria. Johnson has been on the disabled list, retroactive to June 21, with lower back spasms. Johnson could return to the active roster Monday.
--The Sports XChange
IOWA 2, OKLAHOMA CITY 1 (CLASS AAA)
At Des Moines, the Cubs (41-39) made the most of four hits to snap a five-game losing streak Thursday. RF John-Ford Griffin (1-for-4) hit his second home run to provide the go-ahead run. 3B Matt Craig (1-for-2, walk) made his second start after being acquired from Florida (Class AAA New Orleans) earlier in the week for salary considerations. CF Matt Camp (1-for-4, RBI) broke a 32-inning scoreless streak for the team with an RBI single in the third inning. He is batting .330 since June 1 and .304 with 25 RBI in 39 games with the team overall. On the mound, LHP J.R. Mathes (8-4) started and picked up the victory, allowing one run and seven hits in six innings. He struck out one batter and walked three.
HUNTSVILLE 4, TENNESSEE 3 (CLASS AA)
At Sevierville, Tenn., the Smokies (37-44 overall, 5-6 second half) collected nine hits in the loss Thursday. 3B Marquez Smith (2-for-4, RBI) collected two hits, including his 21st double. 1B Doug Deeds (2-for-4) collected two hits for the third straight night and is batting .365 (23-for-63) in 18 games since joining the team from Iowa. C Mark Reed (2-for-3) had his first two-hit night since joining the team from Daytona in late May. RHP Jay Jackson started and received a no-decision, allowing one run and four hits in four innings. He struck out five, walked two, and lowered his ERA to 3.10 in 13 starts. Since April 29, he has a 1.60 ERA in 10 starts. RHP Todd Blackford (1-3) suffered the loss in relief, allowing three runs and four hits in 2 2/3 innings.
JUPITER 2, DAYTONA 1 (CLASS HIGH-A)
At Daytona Beach, the Cubs (38-37, 4-4) were held to six hits in the loss Thursday. 3B Josh Vitters (2-for-4) picked up two hits for his first multi-hit game since joining the team from Peoria earlier in the week. CF Tony Campana (2-for-4) added two hits atop the order and stole his 35th base, most in the Cubs' system. 1B Jovan Rosa (1-for-3, walk) collected his 18th double. RHP Chris Carpenter made his Daytona debut and tossed six scoreless innings, allowing four hits and a walk. He struck out five batters. LHP Luke Sommer (1-2) suffered the loss in relief, allowing two runs and five hits in 2 2/3 innings. He struck out four and did not allow a walk.
PEORIA 3, KANE COUNTY (CLASS-A)
At Geneva, Ill., the Chiefs (40-36, 2-5) collected seven hits in the victory Thursday. LF Josh Harrison (3-for-4) paced the offense with three hits, including his fourth home run. He has hit safely in eight straight games and is batting a team-high .344 in 75 games. 2B Ryan Flaherty (2-for-4) hit his 10th home run. RHP Chris Archer (3-2) started and picked up the win, tossing five shutout innings to lower his ERA to 2.01 in 15 starts. He surrendered three hits and struck out four batters while walking one.
TRI-CITY 6, BOISE 5 (CLASS LOW-A, SS)
At Pasco, Wash., the Hawks (3-10) allowed four ninth inning runs en route to the loss Thursday. Boise collected eight hits total. LF Jae-Hoon Ha (2-for-4) paced the offense with two hits. SS Hak-Ju Lee (1-for-4) collected his sixth double in 12 games and stole two bases. RHP Yohan Gonzalez (0-1) suffered the loss in relief, allowing four runs (three earned) and two hits in one-third of an inning. RHP Su-Min Jung started and pitched 2 1/3 innings, allowing two runs and three hits in a no-decision.
CUBS 6, MARINERS 5 (ARIZONA ROOKIE LEAGUE)
At Peoria, Ariz., the Cubs (5-5) collected 12 hits in the victory Thursday. DH Justin Bour (3-for-4) collected two doubles and drove in three runs. CF Brett Jackson (3-for-5), Chicago's first-round pick in the 2009 draft from California, tripled and drove in two runs. RHP Marcos Perez (1-0) picked up the win in relief with two scoreless innings. He struck out four and walked two. RHP Eduardo Figueroa started and allowed one run and two hits in four innings for a no-decision. He struck out two.
Saying he "thought about it all night," manager Lou Piniella still went ahead Friday and put left…