NEW YORK (AP) -Derrek Lee's 6-year-old daughter, Jada, is always asking him to hit a home run, so the first baseman was a little worried when he left to rejoin the Chicago Cubs after his wife gave birth to their second child.
``I told her, 'Man, now I've got to hit a home run for you and Dylan. It's going to be tough,'' Lee said. ``So I'm sure they're excited today watching at home.'
Lee went deep twice and drove in three runs in his return to the lineup, leading Rich Harden and Chicago to a 5-3 victory over the New York Mets on Saturday.
``Derrek, obviously, was the main attraction today,' manager Lou Piniella said, ``and it was nice to have him back.'
Harden struck out 10, all swinging, and Aramis Ramirez also had a two-run homer for Chicago, which scored its most runs since beating the Mets 11-4 last Saturday. Jeff Baker had two hits and is batting .330 (38 for 115) since he was acquired from Colorado on July 2.
Harden (9-8) pitched five effective innings and the Cubs won for the third time in seven games. The right-hander allowed two runs, one earned, and seven hits to improve to 4-2 with a 2.40 ERA since the All-Star break.
``I wanted to get a little deeper into the game,' said Harden, who threw 73 of 102 pitches for strikes. ``It's tough on the 'pen. They've got to get through four innings. They did a good job.'
Cory Sullivan homered for the second straight day and David Wright also drove in a run for New York. Josh Thole went 2 for 4, giving him four hits in his first two major league games.
The Mets sent Nelson Figueroa to the mound hoping for a repeat performance of his previous start against the Cubs, when he struck out 10 over seven sharp innings in a 4-1 victory at Wrigley Field last Sunday.
Figueroa (2-4) collected eight more strikeouts but was undone by two big swings from Ramirez and Lee, who missed two games after Dylan was born Thursday morning, arrived in New York on Friday night and was relieved with everyone in his growing family doing well.
``Having kids, there's nothing like it,' Lee said. ``It's a love you can't even explain. It's been a good week. I just feel blessed with a healthy son, my daughter just experiencing all of it. It's been fun.'
Ramirez connected for his 12th homer in the fourth, hitting an 0-1 pitch into the seats in left after Lee led off with a single. Ramirez has 11 RBIs in his last 10 games.
``I don't know how he got his hands inside that pitch,' Figueroa said. ``I felt I made a good pitch.'
Lee hit two drives into the second deck in left to give him 29 homers and 93 RBIs after getting off to a slow start this year. He had a tiebreaking, two-run shot in the fifth and a leadoff homer in the eighth against Elmer Dessens after Wright's sacrifice fly cut it to 4-3 in the seventh.
Harden picked up at least two strikeouts in each of his first four innings and has 79 in 60 innings over his last 10 starts. He leads the majors with 10.88 strikeouts per nine innings.
``It's good in a way but it's bad in a way because he throws a lot of pitches,' Piniella said. ``You've got to live with it. There's nothing you can do about it.'
Tom Gorzelanny, Aaron Heilman, John Grabow and Carlos Marmol combined to finish up, with Marmol earning his ninth save. Marmol walked pinch-hitter Jeremy Reed to load the bases after entering in the eighth, but got Angel Pagan to fly out to end the inning. He then worked a perfect ninth.
``I thought Angel put together a real good at-bat against a real good reliever,' Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. ``I think you can take some solace from the fact that it was a good AB.'
Sullivan hit a one-out drive to right in the second inning to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. Before the last two days, his previous homer came on Sept. 12, 2007, for Colorado.
NOTES: The teams combined for 22 strikeouts. ... It was Lee's third multihomer game this season and No. 21 of his career. ... Mets CF Carlos Beltran (bone bruise on right knee) went 1 for 5 with an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning that gave Class-A Brooklyn a 4-3 victory over Lowell. Beltran played nine innings in center and is expected to do the same Sunday. ``So you'll probably see him on Tuesday if he's still somewhat symptom-free,' Manuel said when asked about the slugger's return to the Mets. Beltran is 2 for 13 in four rehab games with Brooklyn. ... Mets RHP John Maine (shoulder weakness) pitched four scoreless innings of two-hit ball in a rehab start for Class-A St. Lucie against Palm Beach. He struck out six, walked one and threw 40 of 58 pitches for strikes. Maine is expected to rejoin the Mets on Sunday, team spokesman Jay Horwitz said, but it's uncertain when he might be activated from the disabled list. Manuel pointed to a day-night doubleheader at Philadelphia on Sept. 13 as a possibility for Maine's return.
The Associated Press News Service
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