Padres overcome 2 homers by Sosa

SAN DIEGO—The Cubs returned to their old, hackneyed ways Wednesday night.

They're a one-man gang.

And that one man, Sammy Sosa, cannot do it by himself.

Sosa homered twice Wednesday but his supporting cast let him down again in the Cubs' 4-3 loss to the Padres.

It was the Cubs' fifth straight loss, but at least they went down quickly this time. The game lasted just two hours and 11 minutes and featured an eight-inning complete game by Jon Lieber.

"Jon pitched great and gave us a chance to win," manager Don Baylor said.

But these days the Cubs need more than just a chance. They're 1-8 in one-run games.

"I know the guys are getting perturbed about losing," Baylor said.

Lieber was angry at himself, although he shouldn't have been. After giving up a two-run homer to Mark Kotsay in the first inning, Lieber gave up just four more hits.

Three of them came in the fourth inning, though. The crushing blow was Sean Burroughs' two run-single that put the Padres ahead 4-2.

"I lost this game," Lieber said. "I left too many pitches down the middle of the game. I'm not going to go home and kick myself all night but you have to learn from those situations."

Opposing pitchers might learn that they can't mess with Sosa, who had his 55th career multi-homer game.

He ripped Bobby Jones' first-pitch curveball into the right-field seats for a two-run blast in the fourth. His solo shot in the eighth off Jeremy Fikac accounted for the Cubs' final run.

"When he goes from opposite field to center, it shows he's heating up and carrying this team on his back," Baylor said. "You always expect him to do it for you. [But] these other guys, they're going to make a contribution before it's over with."

Fred McGriff, who went 1-for-3 with a walk, is finally showing some signs of life, but he's still hitting .209 with one home run.

Delino DeShields, who was robbed by Burroughs on a ninth-inning line drive, has one hit in his last 23 at-bats.

Todd Hundley, making just his second start since April 13, got his first hit since April 4.

Moises Alou had a single in four trips to the plate. That raised his average to .147.

"He's coming, period," Sosa said of Alou. "He's swinging the bat much better and it's just a matter of time. When he finds the little thing he's missing right now in his mechanics, everything will be perfect."

It's close to perfect for Sosa, who would have been tied for the National League lead in home runs if not for Houston's Lance Berkman, who hit his 11th on Wednesday against Montreal.

"I've been working hard in the cage with [hitting coach Jeff] Pentland on everything I'm doing wrong," Sosa said. "That's why I'm at the top of my game. Every time I miss, I know why. So the next at-bat, I go for it."

Jones (3-1) beat the Cubs for the ninth straight time and improved to 11-1 against them, allowing two runs on six hits in 52/3 innings.

Trevor Hoffman pitched a perfect ninth for his 321st save with San Diego, a major league record for most saves with one team. Dennis Eckersley set the old record with Oakland from 1987-1995.