CHICAGO -- Just when you thought the Cubs season was over, they come through with what manager Dale Sveum called one of the biggest wins of the year.
Alfonso Soriano hit a walk-off RBI single with one out in the ninth on Thursday to cap a three-run rally and lift the Cubs to a 12-11 win over the Brewers. The surge in the ninth was the second comeback in the game, as they overcame a 9-3 deficit with a six-run sixth, capped by rookie Brett Jackson's two-run double.
"There were multiple heroes in that game," Sveum said. "It all worked out. That was nice. That was one of our, if not our best win of the year."
The Cubs trailed 11-9 entering the ninth and tied the game against Francisco Rodriguez (2-7) on an RBI single by Starlin Castro and RBI double by Anthony Rizzo. Soriano, who did not start but entered as a pinch-hitter in the sixth, hit the first pitch from Rodriguez to center to score Castro.
"Big hit by Sori -- right guy, right spot," Jackson said.
The game began with starter Brooks Raley knowing it was his final start of the season.
"Unfortunately we have to shut him down after today's game," Sveum said before the rookie had thrown a pitch.
Raley, 24, has simply maxed out on innings. The left-hander had thrown 136 1/3 innings in each of the last two seasons. On Thursday, he gave up seven runs on 10 hits over four innings in his fifth big league start, and finishes with 155 innings total for '12. The left-hander, who began the year at Double-A Tennessee, will get an invite to his first big league Spring Training camp next year.
"It doesn't happen too often that a guy doesn't come to camp and he gets a shot like this," Sveum said.
"We won a game, so that's exciting," said Raley, who heads home to Texas for hunting season. "Starting in Double-A and getting here, it's obviously been a huge opportunity and a blessing. Hopefully, I build off this in the offseason and roll into Spring Training ready to go."
Chris Rusin will be added from Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs also are evaluating how much longer to let Jeff Samardzija pitch. He totaled 88 innings last year as a reliever, and has already reached a career-high 158 2/3 innings this season.
"We'll just have to wait and see," Sveum said of Samardzija. "He's been so strong, we're just going to have to evaluate that as the season goes the rest of the way and where we are as well with starting pitchers to fill spots, too."
The Cubs gave Raley a 3-0 cushion Thursday. Castro hit an RBI triple and scored on Rizzo's double in the first. David DeJesus added an RBI single in the second.
The Brewers wiped that out in the third, as Jonathan Lucroy hit his second career grand slam and Cody Ransom added an RBI single. In the fourth, Ryan Braun left a dent in the TV camera booth in straightaway center for his 36th home run, a two-run shot. Lucroy added a two-run single for a 9-3 lead.
"Those guys have to learn how to pitch at this level," Sveum said of his young pitchers. "When you've got to face the Brauns and these guys, you don't think, 'I'm going to throw a 3-0 pitch' or 'I'm going to throw an 0-0 pitch and think I'm going to get away with it if it's down the middle.' It has to be a quality pitch in the big leagues all the time. These guys are the best hitters in the world."
That's all part of the growing pains.
"It kind of really got ugly there," Sveum said. "I wasn't the happiest guy in the world in the fifth inning, and not just the score, but some things that went on."
What sort of things?
"I probably would've had to write everything down," he said, citing bad pitch selection and some sloppy defense.
But his mood changed when they sent 11 batters to the plate in the sixth, and scored six runs on four hits and four walks against Livan Hernandez and Manny Parra. DeJesus hit an RBI double, Luis Valbuena added an RBI single, and another run scored when Welington Castillo drew a walk with the bases loaded. Jackson tied it with his two-run double, his second at-bat and second double of the inning.
"To put some runs up like we did, and kind of give it all up, it's tough to be part of," Lucroy said. "A fun game offensively, but defensively we didn't cut it."
That set up the ninth.
"We don't give up," Soriano said. "We have to come every day with the same energy -- maybe a little bit more. When we're losing like we've been losing, we have to come to the ballpark with energy. We try our best and try to play hard and win some games."
The Cubs, who have reached double-digit strikeouts in eight of their last 15 games, drew a season-high 11 walks.
"When we can walk 11 times, you know there was some grinding going on in nine innings," Sveum said. "There were some great at-bats, and guys saw a lot of pitches and got in great counts, and ended up getting hits in a lot of situations."
There's still plenty of work to do. The Cubs now are 7-21 in August, and need to finish 13-19 to avoid a a 100-loss season, the first since 1966 when they lost 103 games.
"That game today, I think it will help the offense and the clubhouse because we came back," Soriano said. "It was a big game for us to win that game."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.