Inside Pitch: Blanco on Hot Streak

Henry Blanco, a lifetime .219 hitter heading into this season, is on a hot streak since taking over the No. 1 catching spot for injured Michael Barrett. A pending free agent, there's a chance that the 35-year-old veteran could be earning himself a shot at an everyday job.

"I don't know -- he's pretty good where he's at," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "Henry's a valuable person. He's getting better as a hitter, and that's what you like to see. One of the main reasons he wasn't starting before was because he wasn't hitting. But he's getting better and getting more confidence, and that's what you like to see as a coach."

After tying his career highs with four hits and four RBIs Tuesday against Milwaukee, Blanco's average soared to .272. He has six homers and 36 RBIs in 224 at-bats.

He's already been known as an outstanding defensive catcher, and his newfound hitting prowess could make him even more desirable on the free agent market whether as a starter or a backup.

REPLAY: Freddie Bynum hit a solo homer to lead off the ninth inning, and Henry Blanco hit a bases-loaded single to help the Cubs pull off a 3-2 victory over Milwaukee at Wrigley Field on Wednesday night. Chicago completed a two-game sweep.

The Cubs offense was shut out by Dave Bush for six innings before Matt Murton's groundout scored Ryan Theriot in the seventh inning. Bush allowed one run on three hits through eight innings, but the Cubs jumped on reliever Francisco Cordero for the two late runs. The Cubs improved to 65-94 and went over the 3 million mark in home attendance for the third consecutive season.

NOTES, QUOTES

  • INF Ryan Theriot, trying to solidify a spot on next year's team, is hitting .322 for the season and has been hot since getting regular playing time in September. While it's not always wise to judge young players in September, Cubs manager Dusty Baker said Theriot's .300-plus average at Triple-A Iowa earlier in the season is a good indication that his September can be taken seriously.

  • LHP Rich Hill, who is all but a lock to pitch in the rotation next year, closed the season out on a solid note, allowing two runs on six hits with seven strikeouts in seven innings against Milwaukee on Wednesday night. But he left the game with a 2-1 deficit and did not get the decision in a 3-2, come-from-behind victory.

  • RHP Kerry Wood (shoulder injury) has started playing catch this week. The plan is for him to go be able to do some throwing off of a mound in October. The Cubs likely will decline a $13 million option on him for 2007 but could negotiate a new deal for him to return.

  • RHP Wade Miller gets the call for the final game of the year Sunday and is hoping to pick up his elusive first victory. Miller is 0-2 in four starts since returning from shoulder surgery. He left Monday's game against Cincinnati with a lead after five innings, but the Cubs went on to lose 5-4. Cubs manager Dusty Baker believes that if Miller re-signs with the Cubs, he would have a legitimate shot at making the rotation in 2007.

  • 3B Aramis Ramirez sat out a second consecutive start with a right quadriceps strain. The Cubs hope he will be able to start Friday when the Cubs host Colorado to start the final series of the season.
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