Johnson takes one for the team
Pinch-hitter forces home winning run after being hit by pitch
CHICAGO -- Reed Johnson won't mind the bruise on his calf. It was the end result of what turned out to be the game-winning "hit" for the Cubs on Thursday.
Johnson was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to drive in the winning run in the 11th inning and lift the Cubs to a 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves, completing a sweep.
"That's the first one ever, but it's probably the best-feeling one I've ever had," Johnson said of his walkoff hit by pitch.
Aramis Ramirez walked to open the 11th against Manny Acosta (3-5), and advanced on a passed ball. Kosuke Fukudome was intentionally walked, and Geovany Soto then singled to load the bases. Lefty Jim Ridgway replaced Acosta, and hit Johnson with the first pitch, a slider. Johnson was batting for Jim Edmonds, who had hit a game-tying homer in the ninth.
"It's a great situation for anybody," Edmonds said of the 11th inning. "Bases loaded, nobody out, bring Reed in, let him get a swing. All he has to do is hit a fly ball, or put the ball in play hard. It's a perfect situation for both of us. Reed went up there and we were joking -- it hit him in the calf, and he was limping and making fun of it."
Edmonds could've taken one for the team. He told Johnson that.
"I could've taken one off the leg," Edmonds said.
"He probably could've," Johnson said.
But Johnson was the batter Cubs manager Lou Piniella called upon.
"Reed is a good hitter to send up there in that situation because he's patient, and he works the strike zone," Piniella said. "He can work a walk, make some contact."
As it turns out, he did make contact -- with his leg.
"I think if that ball doesn't hit me, it probably goes to the backstop," Johnson said. "It hit me in the back leg, and I don't know if [Braves catcher Brian] McCann could've gotten over there to block it."
Johnson could sense the Braves were going to throw inside because Ridgway was targeting that part of the plate when he was warming up. It's just one more way the Cubs have found to come from behind and win. This was the 10th comeback win in Chicago's last 13 games, and 22nd of the season. It marked the first sweep over the Braves at Wrigley since April 10-13, 2000. Kerry Wood (3-1) picked up the win in two innings of relief.
"We're winning games, even the one we came back from seven, eight [runs down against Colorado on May 30], and I don't think we ever thought we were out of it today," Wood said. "It's fun, and we're playing good ball right now. Hopefully we can take it on the road and continue."
Wood came through in the 11th, his second inning of work, after Kelly Johnson doubled with two outs. Piniella opted to intentionally walk Chipper Jones, the leading hitter in the Major Leagues, and Wood got Mark Teixeira looking at strike three.
"That last decision, we had to walk Jones," Piniella said. "He's hitting .414. A cold beer wouldn't have tasted good on the airplane if Jones had beaten us there. So we chose Teixeira, and Teixeira's a good hitter, believe me. Woody made a real nice pitch on him at 3-2."
Edmonds tied the game when he launched a 1-0 pitch from Blaine Boyer into the basket in left in the ninth. The win came at the right time, as the Cubs began life without Alfonso Soriano, sidelined at least six weeks after he suffered a broken bone in his left hand on Wednesday.
"We just have to keep it going and try not to dwell on it too much," Edmonds said of losing Soriano, who leads the team with 15 homers and has 40 RBIs. "In order to win the division and get to the playoffs, you have to overcome adversity, and there's always something every year. You look back in the history of the game, and not too many teams can go six months without something happening. Better now than later, and we'll just keep our heads up and keep playing hard and hopefully things will work out.
"He's a tremendous player and we're going to miss him," Edmonds said. "We have enough talent to hopefully fill the void and keep playing well."
Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano did not get a decision and avoided any contact with a Gatorade cooler except to get a drink. In his last outing in Los Angeles, he kicked and tossed a cooler in the dugout after coming out of a game, which he ended up losing, 7-3. On Thursday, he scattered eight hits and walked three while striking out three over seven-plus innings.
The Cubs and Braves were dressed in 1948 throwback uniforms, and that may have thrown Big Z off. He prefers the alternate blue jerseys, not the all white with the striped stirrups. Jeff Francoeur homered off Zambrano in the second, driving in McCann, who had singled, to give Atlanta a 2-0 lead.
"I was wondering if the '48 Cubs jerseys were going to jinx us today or not," Piniella said.
They didn't. The Cubs got on the board in the seventh when Aramis Ramirez singled, advanced on a ground out by Fukudome and a single by Soto before scoring on Edmonds' sacrifice fly. Tim Hudson then walked Mark DeRosa and was pulled before facing Zambrano, who entered the game batting .364, and already had a single in the third. Jorge Campillo got Big Z to pop up and end the inning.
Wrigley Field has been sweet for the Cubs, now 29-8 at home. They head north of the border for an Interleague series against Toronto.
"We've got a tough stretch here," Piniella said. "We're in the American League now that we haven't seen. ... Last year, we did really well against the American League. So let's hope that our fortune stays the same. I don't believe that things go your way. I believe that you make things go your way. These kids are playing good baseball."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.