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Cubs’ sweep of Padres lifts team spirits

CHICAGO (MCT) — The game-time temperature dropped 31 degrees in two days at Wrigley Field, from 90 to 59, while the Cubs went from ice-cold to red-hot.

Darwin Barney’s two-run, walk-off homer Wednesday launched the Cubs to an 8-6 victory over the Padres, giving them their first three-game winning streak since September.

“That was the first walk-off home run I’ve ever had at any level,” Barney said. “I didn’t even see it go out. I was running hard. It’s crazy. It’s already gone and past.”

The sweep of the Padres couldn’t have come at a better time for the Cubs, who became the first team to win three straight after losing 12 straight since the Mets did it in August 2002.

“To bounce back from that by sweeping somebody, it feels really good,” starter Ryan Dempster said.

Dempster remained winless after his worst start of the season. He allowed six runs over 41/3 innings, serving up three home runs, including two to Carlos Quentin. A mysterious hole was discovered in the wall between the lockers of Dempster and Alfonso Soriano after the game, the result of an apparent pounding with a wooden object.

“For sure it was not me,” Soriano said. “Someone emotional. Who could it be?”

Soriano laughed.

“That’s part of the game too,” he said.

Aside from smashing walls, the Cubs were able to enjoy themselves during their brief, three-day homestand, thanks in no small part to the ineptitude of the Padres. With a 6-3 lead in the fifth, Padres pitchers issued back-to-back walks with the bases loaded to force in a pair of runs.

After Reed Johnson’s two-out, pinch-hit single in the eighth, Tony Campana pinch-ran, stole second on a pitchout and then stole third while ex-Cub Andrew Cashner was inattentive on the mound.

“Reed did the hard part,” Campana said. “He got the hit against a guy like Cashner. (He’s) is pretty slow to the plate so all I have to do is run. ... (Cashner wasn’t) paying attention, and (third base coach Pat Listach) gave me a little open hand like ‘Hey, you can get it.’ So I just went.”

Starlin Castro followed with an infield hit, making a headfirst slide into first base as Campana scored the tying run. With Bryan LaHair on first and two outs in the ninth, Barney took an off-speed pitch from Dale Thayer and blasted it through the incoming wind, inciting a mob scene at home plate.

Barney scored three runs and drove in three, hitting his second home run in three days.

“He has been doing a nice job, building that slugging percentage for sure,” manager Dale Sveum said. “That ball was crushed through that wind.”

After an day off Thursday, the Cubs begin a three-city, 10-game trip Friday in a tough stretch in which they play 16 of 22 away from Wrigley Field.

By the time they get home, the hole next to Dempster’s locker might be fixed, and perhaps he will have notched that elusive victory.

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