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Jones, Cubs rock on

Overlooked outfielder sparks second straight victory in Colorado

August 11, 2007

DENVER -- Forget Scott Podsednik or Shannon Stewart or anybody else the Cubs might find on a waiver wire these days.

With their lineup decimated in recent days by injuries, the Cubs seem to have found the help they've sought in the guy nobody seemed to want two months ago.

With their lineup decimated in recent days by injuries, the Cubs seem to have found the help they've sought in the guy nobody seemed to want two months ago.

Outfielder Jacque Jones, already the team's hottest hitter in recent weeks, delivered a second straight big offensive night from the No. 2 hole Friday to key back-to-back wins over the Colorado Rockies in the first two games of a four-game series at Coors Field.

Outfielder Jacque Jones, already the team's hottest hitter in recent weeks, delivered a second straight big offensive night from the No. 2 hole Friday to key back-to-back wins over the Colorado Rockies in the first two games of a four-game series at Coors Field.

''Jones is really taking to that No. 2 hole,'' manager Lou Piniella said after the Cubs beat the Rockies 6-2 behind strong pitching from Jason Marquis (9-7) and another big offensive night. ''He's swinging it. He's driving the ball.''

One night after going 4-for-5 with four RBI, Jones had a bunt single and an upper-deck home run in a three-hit effort Friday as the Cubs kept pace with National League Central-leading Milwaukee, which needed 11 innings to beat Houston and avoid being overtaken by the Cubs.

Jones has led the mile-high climb for the Cubs lineup since its ugly Houston series earlier in the week, racking up seven of the 28 Cubs hits the past two nights -- with slugging Matt Murton adding a three-hit game Friday, along with his third homer in four days, and Jason Kendall delivering his second straight three-hit game.

Jones' homer Friday was his first since June 1.

''Finally,'' he said.

Jones is so hot these days he even reached on a strikeout in the eighth inning, when the ball skipped to the backstop -- and then stole second.

Suddenly, he's hitting .444 in August, .349 since the All-Star break and looks like an important part of bridging the offensive gap created by the loss of leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano to a quadriceps injury.

Not bad for a guy the Cubs tried to dump in trades in June after relegating him to fifth-outfielder status.

''I just know I can play,'' he said. ''I always have confidence in my ability no matter what. Sometimes it wavers a little bit. But I've been in the league eight years for a reason. It's not a fluke. It's not by accident. I can play.''

Since his average dipped to .227 the first week of July, Jones has not only played his way back into an every-day spot in the lineup but also made himself too valuable to trade. Since July 4, Jones is 33-for-94 (.351), raising his season average to .266.

Between him and Murton, who rejoined the starting lineup in left field this week in the wake of Soriano's injury, the Cubs are starting to look like they might not need the outside help for which general manager Jim Hendry says he's scanning the waiver wires.

''You're never going to replace a player like Alfonso Soriano,'' Murton said. ''But I know I believe in my ability. We've just got to go out there and compete and not worry about [trade rumors].''

Led by impressive starting pitching the last two nights -- including 6 2/3 innings without an earned run by Marquis on Friday -- Cubs pitchers have held a Rockies team fresh off a 36-run, three-game sweep of Milwaukee to just two runs each of the last two nights.

''We saw that score when we left Houston, when they scored 19 runs [Wednesday],'' said reliever Bob Howry, who entered the eighth with the bases loaded and none out and escaped with only one run scoring. ''Maybe they used them all up.''

Marquis only left as early as he did after appearing to be affected by hitting Colorado's Jeff Baker in the helmet with a 91 mph fastball. The dazed Baker lay face down for two or three minutes before being helped from the field and underwent tests at a nearby hospital afterward.

Marquis, who was taken out after walking the next batter, said he wasn't unnerved enough that he couldn't have continued. But he was concerned enough after the game to call the Rockies clubhouse for an update on Baker and planned to call back when test results were completed.

''Obviously, it was a pitch that got away from me,'' Marquis said. ''It's something that you never want to see. Hopefully he gets better and the results come out on the good side.''