CHICAGO -- The wind whipping out on a warm afternoon, the Chicago Cubs found the perfect conditions to pad their home run total and strengthen their lead in the NL Central.
"It was a good day to hit. But you can't blame the wind. You still got to hit the ball," said Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who connected on a pair of three-run homers to lead a wild 13-8 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday.
"You can't look up there," Ramirez said of the wind gusting to 21 mph that was moving the flags. "If you try to hit home runs, I guarantee you won't hit them."
Chicago, with eight games remaining, remained 1½ games in front of Milwaukee in the division. The Brewers beat Atlanta 4-1 on Friday night.
"You can't get excited. Anything can happen. Milwaukee is a good team," Ramirez said. "Hopefully we can separate ourselves from them right now, but you never know."
Ramirez hit a three-run homer in the first off Paul Maholm, a shot well over the left field bleachers. He delivered another three-run shot, his 25th homer of the season, off Franquelis Osoria (0-2) to break a 7-7 tie in the sixth. It came right after Pirates' second baseman Freddy Sanchez dropped a flip on a perfect double-play ball.
With Soriano at first and one out, Derrek Lee hit a hard grounder to short, but Sanchez couldn't catch the throw from Matt Kata that could have led to the side being retired. Instead, Ramirez capitalized on the miscue and put the Cubs ahead.
Two batters later, Soto hit a two-run homer off John Grabow, and the Cubs had a five-run lead.
"It was one of those things, it was a little quick and it gets away from you," Sanchez said. "It's going to happen. But I probably should've just tried to get one, then two."
Soriano hit his 29th homer leading off the bottom of the first. The Cubs added another run in the seventh when Lee had an RBI single after the Pirates' third error of the game. Ramirez nearly followed with his third homer of the game, flying out to the wall.
Scott Eyre (2-1) pitched the top of the sixth for the win.
By the bottom of the third inning, both starters had been driven out, the game was tied at 7 and the teams had already combined for 19 hits.
"This was a Wrigley Field game that I've heard so much about," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said, praising his bullpen that didn't give up a run for 5 1/3 innings until Xavier Nady homered off Ryan Dempster in the ninth.
Piniella said the victory puts the onus on the Brewers. "They see that we posted a win and they got to duplicate that," said Piniella, who had no plans to watch the Brewers on TV.
"I'm going to dinner," he said. "One game over here today was plenty for me."
Maholm, who entered the game with a 4-0 career record against the Cubs, had given up 11 hits and 10 runs to the Astros last Sunday in just 2 2/3 innings.
This time he didn't make it that far, going two-plus innings and surrendering 10 hits and seven runs, six earned.
Marquis got off to a shaky start in the first, giving up a leadoff single to Nyjer Morgan, two walks and two stolen bases. All the Pirates could manage after loading the bases was Nady's RBI fielder's choice grounder for a 1-0 lead. The Cubs then responded with four in the bottom half on the homers by Soriano and Ramirez.
Cesar Izturis' two-out RBI triple in a five-run third put the Pirates ahead 6-5 and finished Marquis, who surrendered eight hits and seven runs in 2 2/3 innings.
McLouth's single, a double by Adam LaRoche, an RBI grounder from Nady, a run-scoring double down the third base line by Jose Bautista and an RBI single up the middle by Ronny Paulino tied the game. Izturis, traded to Pittsburgh from Chicago on July 19, then hit a ball into the right field corner for three bases.
Will Ohman relieved and Maholm popped a bunt over his head and behind the mound for an RBI single that made it 7-5.
Pinch-hitter Ronny Cedeno had a bases-loaded RBI single and Osoria uncorked a wild pitch to let in a run in the third as the Cubs tied the game at 7.
- It was Maholm's shortest outing of the season, and the second-shortest for Marquis. He lasted 1 2/3 innings against Atlanta on June 9.
- Izturis had irritation in his right elbow and was replaced at short by Kata to start the bottom of the fourth.
- Piniella got his 1,600th career managerial victory to move past Tommy Lasorda for sole possession of 16th place on the all-time list.