Fox's first grand slam leads rout of Mets
Outfielder drives in five, including homer in six-run fifth
CHICAGO -- Rookie Jake Fox backed up his bold talk with his bat.
"Fox told me before the ballgame, 'I've got your back today, Skip,'" Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "A couple at-bats into it, I was wondering. He caught up in a hurry."
Fox, starting in left field in place of Alfonso Soriano, smacked his first career grand slam and drove in a career-high five runs, while Aramis Ramirez and Mike Fontenot knocked in two apiece to power the Cubs to an 11-4 victory Saturday over the New York Mets.
The Cubs began the day 6 1/2 games back in the National League Wild Card and won back-to-back games for the first time since Aug. 14-15.
"We have to take the approach of battling one game at a time and not worry about what we did yesterday or what we're going to do tomorrow or who's in front of us or what the standings are," said Ryan Dempster, who picked up the win. "If we start paying attention to all that kind of stuff, we might as well make tee times for the fifth of October.
"It's been a tough year for us and we haven't played as well as we'd have liked, but we're going to keep battling, and who knows what happens at the end."
Soriano underwent an MRI on his left knee Saturday, which opened a spot in the lineup for Fox, who hit his 10th homer in the Cubs' six-run fifth inning and added an RBI double in the seventh.
What prompted the bravado by Fox?
"I told him that because I've been feeling really good in batting practice lately," Fox said.
He delivered. The Cubs trailed, 4-3, going into the fifth and had two on and two outs when Ramirez smacked an RBI single to tie the game at 4.
Kosuke Fukudome walked against Bobby Parnell (3-7) to load the bases and set up Fox's slam off an 0-2 split-finger. The rookie was forced out for a curtain call in front of 40,857, and the first player he received a high five from as he stepped down was Soriano.
"He was the first guy to come up and say, 'Go get 'em today and good luck,' and that's a really good feeling," Fox said. "Obviously, he hasn't had the season he wants, but he's still an All-Star, he's still a phenomenal player and a veteran guy who has a lot of talent. It's really cool to get that kind of support from him."
Dempster (8-7) appreciated the offense. He struck out seven over six innings, giving up four runs, eight hits and two walks. The right-hander has now won back-to-back starts for the first time since September 2008.
Fox was the hero. When he was called up, Fox was leading the Pacific Coast League in batting average, home runs and RBIs, but the rap was that he was a hitter without a position. He's batting .300 and has more RBIs in 200 fewer at-bats than Milton Bradley. Hasn't he done enough to warrant regular playing time?
"I wouldn't say that," Fox said. "A guy in my situation, in order to win a job or earn a job, you have to give [Piniella] a reason to put you in there. I've been a little inconsistent, and I have to work on my consistency and come out and perform on a daily basis.
"The biggest thing I'm happy about is I'm showing not only this organization but Lou that I'm not a liability defensively. I think their biggest concern bringing me here was my defense. To me, that's the biggest improvement."
Tom Ricketts, part of the Cubs' new ownership group, was reportedly at the game but didn't talk to Piniella or the players.
"He saw us play the way a lot of people envision us playing more often," Piniella said. "It was just a good baseball game for us."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.