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NYM@CHC: Cubs score five runs in the second

CHICAGO -- It's the kids who are powering the Cubs.

Rookie Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro both drove in two runs, and Lou Montanez made the most of his Cubs debut, hitting an RBI double in his first at-bat, to lift the Cubs to an 11-1 win Tuesday night over the Mets.

Barney and Castro are now tied with Alfonso Soriano for the team lead with 23 RBIs, and the youngsters have done it primarily with singles and doubles.

"They've been pretty consistent driving in runs the entire year and even though they're at the top of the order," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "When they've gotten the opportunity, they've done a good job. The interesting thing about that is neither one is hitting any homers. They've combined for two, so guess what, you can drive in runs without hitting home runs.

"There's a knack and approach that I think they both relish," Quade said. "As young players, that's a pretty good place to start because it ain't that easy. You hope that continues along with the rest of their development."

Ryan Dempster (3-4) benefited. He gave up one run on Jose Reyes' RBI single in the fifth, one of seven hits over seven innings. It was Dempster's fourth quality start in his last five games.

His timing isn't great. He entered the interview room postgame just as overtime started for the Bulls in their NBA playoff game against the Heat. Several fans watched the end of regulation on the Wrigley concourse.

"I don't think any sports fan in Chicago cares what I have to say," Dempster quipped.

We'll sum it up: He did his job well. So did Barney, who has hit safely in 32 of his 40 starts and leads all Major League rookies with 54 hits and 19 multihit games.

"My job is to be a situational hitter and my job is to get on base," Barney said. "I think that way. I simplify it. I'm not trying to drive the ball out of the park with runners in scoring position, I'm trying to make productive outs. I'm taking sac flies when I can.

"All [the RBIs] mean is guys in front of me are getting on," he said. "Those guys are doing their job and, fortunately, I'm doing it enough and here I am."

Montanez is happy to be here, too. The Cubs' No. 1 pick in the 2000 Draft -- third overall -- he never made it to the big leagues with the team after six seasons in the Minors. He signed with the Orioles, endured some injury-filled seasons and was back with the Cubs this spring. He provided a spark in the second as the Cubs sent 10 batters to the plate against Jonathon Niese (3-5). Aramis Ramirez was safe on a single off second baseman Ruben Tejada's glove and one out later, moved up on Soriano's single. Montanez, promoted from Triple-A Iowa largely because of the injury to Marlon Byrd, doubled to right on a 0-1 pitch to drive in Ramirez.

Koyie Hill then hit a grounder to first baseman Daniel Murphy who threw home but Ronny Paulino couldn't close his glove on the ball, and Soriano scored on the catcher's error. One out later, Reed Johnson walked to load the bases and Barney followed with a two-run single to go ahead, 4-0. Castro added an RBI single.

"It's a relief," Montanez said about his double.

And his perseverance through injury filled seasons?

"You don't know what's going to happen, but I always knew I was going to be a Cub and I never wavered from that goal," said Montanez, who became a quick crowd favorite. The 35,707 at Wrigley Field chanted "Lou" after his first hit.

Barney, who apparently doesn't have as catchy a name, singled to lead off the fifth and tallied on Castro's triple.

The Cubs had runners at first and second and one out in the sixth when Johnson struck out. Paulino threw to Murphy, trying to get Dempster, who was at first, but the ball sailed down the right-field line for an error and another run scored.

"I saw the same thing you guys saw, and that is we didn't play very good," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We have not played like this in a long time, but maybe it's out of our system now. This is very uncommon and very uncharacteristic of the way we've played and the way we're going to play."

Dempster wasn't miffed that Carlos Zambrano hit for him in the seventh.

"I just told him, 'Don't strike out,'" Dempster said. "Any time you can add more runs there, it's great. It felt good. Another big catch by Reed Johnson. It's customary whenever I pitch."

Johnson, who will be filling in for Byrd in center, plays as if he has a clause in his contract that he has to make a great catch whenever Dempster pitches. He came through in the seventh, robbing Jason Pridie of possible extra bases.

"That's what I always tell him," Johnson said of his catches for Dempster. "Whether I play right or center, that's where he pitches to. It seems like it, at least. It's nice to make good plays. It seems like it's always the case when he's on the mound, for sure."

The Cubs need all the breaks they can get. On Tuesday, Matt Garza was placed on the disabled list, the third starting pitcher injured this year. Catcher Geovany Soto also is on the DL, as is Byrd. Who would've thought the outfield on May 24 would be Johnson, Montanez and Tony Campana?

"Injuries happen and it's a chance for other people to get opportunities and try to make the most of those and hopefully we can continue to get guys back," Dempster said. "It'll be nice to get [Randy Wells] back on the weekend and Garza back soon. You just have to battle through those."

Just ask Montanez.

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