By ALAN ROBINSON
AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH -- Aramis Ramirez homered and drove in three runs and the Chicago Cubs won their third in a row to retain the majors' best record, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 12-3 Monday night.
Two Cubs hitters who were slumping, Jim Edmonds and Kosuke Fukudome, also had big games as the Cubs improved to 81-50 -- the first time they've been 31 games above .500 since they ended the 1984 season with a 96-65 record.
Fukudome, hitting .161 in August when the game began, drove in four runs with a sacrifice fly, a two-run single during a five-run fifth inning that made it 10-1 and an RBI double. He has six RBIs in five at-bats during his last two games. Edmonds had three extra-base hits, a triple and two doubles, after being 0-for-17 over his previous seven games.
Edmonds hit his second triple of the season and scored on Fukudome's sacrifice fly in the second against Jeff Karstens (2-3), who was pulled after allowing five runs and six hits over three innings. In his first start after being traded by the Yankees to the Pirates last month, Karstens shut out the Cubs over six innings in Wrigley Field on Aug. 1.
Ramirez's three-run homer in the third was his 23rd and put the Cubs ahead 5-0. Fukudome's two-run single came during a five-run fifth against reliever Jason Davis.
The Cubs, winners of 23 of 31, didn't need nearly that much offense to back Ted Lilly's seven effective innings. The left-hander gave up homers to Brandon Moss and Adam LaRoche but still dealt the Pirates their fifth consecutive loss and ninth in 11 games.
Lilly (13-7) struck out seven and walked one in the Cubs' 11th victory in their last 12 road games. They are 12-4 against the Pirates, who dropped into a tie with idle Cincinnati for the worst record in the NL Central. Chicago has won 15 of its last 19 against Pittsburgh.
The Pirates are 7-16 since trading left fielder Jason Bay to Boston on July 31, a week after sending right fielder Xavier Nady to the Yankees. Since the Bay trade cost them their most productive offensive player, the Pirates have scored more than five runs only twice and have been held to three runs or fewer 15 times.
Maybe the schedule has something to do with the Pirates' latest late-season slide, one that has left them eight losses away from a major league record-tying 16th consecutive losing season. They are playing all but three games this month against losing-record teams. Notes:
Pirates CF Nate McLouth returned to the lineup after missing five starts with the stomach flu. ... The Pirates received Triple-A catcher Robinson Diaz from the Toronto Blue Jays as the player to be named in the Aug. 21 trade involving third baseman Jose Bautista. Diaz was hitting .244 with one home run and 13 RBIs for Syracuse. ... This is the final Cubs-Pirates series of the season. ... The Cubs are one of the majors' top draws -- except in Pittsburgh. The crowd was announced at 14,454. ... Fukudome's four RBIs are his season and career high. He left Japan's major leagues to sign with the Cubs this season. ... The Cubs' 17 hits were two off their season high of 19 on May 23, also in Pittsburgh.