Hill's thrill ride

Bobby Hill didn't know he was a double short of the cycle Thursday until some friends hollered to him while he stood in the on-deck circle with two outs in the eighth inning.

That's when the thought occurred to Hill.

"Today I wanted as many at-bats as I could get," he said. "That was the best I felt at the plate since spring training."

Alas, Corey Patterson flied out to end the inning and Hill never got that sixth at-bat. But he wasn't about to complain after the Cubs' 11-6 victory over the Pirates.

Neither was manager Don Baylor.

"I was pulling for him to get that double," he said. "He has been pressing for a while to get some hits."

Fred McGriff was in a similar situation a week ago. His average was an eyesore at .207.

McGriff also enjoyed a breakout game Thursday, going 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and RBI single. He's batting .438 during his six-game hitting streak.

The duo led the Cubs to their best offensive output of the season—and their third consecutive victory. They need 11 more in a row to reach the .500 mark.

"We have some catching up to do, no doubt," Baylor said. "We have to get close to that .500 mark before it gets warm. Once it gets warm, it seems like everybody else hits too."

The Pirates had little success against Matt Clement, whose seven-inning stint was his longest since April 19.

After Clement departed with a 9-2 lead, Joe Borowski bailed out lefty Ron Mahay, who gave up two eighth-inning homers.

If the Cubs can turn around their season, Thursday's offensive showing could be regarded as a landmark.

But in Baylor's mind the turning point came Sunday in Milwaukee.

With the Cubs on the verge of blowing a 5-4 victory in the 11th, pinch-hitter Lenny Harris lined out to Hill, who flipped to shortstop Augie Ojeda to complete a game-ending double play.

"We finally caught a break and didn't have to come home with a 10-game losing streak," Baylor said. "I think a lot of guys were relieved after that and I've seen a different attitude since."

Hill needed to adjust his frame of mind after hitting a weak flyout in the first. Sammy Sosa pulled him aside and encouraged him to be patient.

Hill also resisted the temptation to get down on himself after an error in the third. Hill flubbed a potential double-play ball after an unsuccessful exchange from glove to hand.

"Errors are going to happen," he said. "It's not going to be the last one. What makes you stay around in this game is going back out there and still competing. I didn't put my head down."

Hill, who was 3-for-5 with four RBIs, put his head down momentarily in the fourth after hitting his first big-league homer, a two-run shot off Kris Benson. Hill nearly ran into Patterson on the bases.

"I don't go slow around the bases," he said. "That's not my game."