Wrong kind of Sparks

Dusty Baker maintained before the first night game this year at Wrigley Field that all those day games traditionally have given the Cubs the ultimate home-field advantage.

"That was one of Chicago's main weapons," Baker said. "The place doesn't close until late, and then you have to get up early."

But it was the Cubs who were guilty of sleepwalking Tuesday against Steve Sparks' knuckleball most of the night in Arizona's 6-3 victory.

Sparks blanked the Cubs on three hits through seven innings before Sammy Sosa's three-run homer in the eighth knocked him out. But because the Diamondbacks already had built a 6-0 lead off Sergio Mitre and Glendon Rusch, Sosa's second home run in two days was meaningless.

The Cubs are hitting .172 in four games against the D-backs, and have finished with six or fewer hits in five of their last eight games.

"No one here is going to panic," Corey Patterson said. "Sometimes that's just the game of baseball. Every team is going to have adversity this year. Now, if we're scuffling for runs 15, 20 games in a row, we have a problem, definitely."

With the wind blowing straight out at 15 m.p.h., the sellout crowd of 38,942 was looking for some offensive fireworks during the first of back-to-back night games against the D-backs. But Sparks, making his first appearance against the Cubs, kept them off-balance most of the night. After Todd Walker's leadoff hit in the first, Sparks didn't allow another until Rusch's single with two outs in the fifth.

Meanwhile, Mitre (1-2) allowed four runs on seven hits in four innings in his second straight subpar outing against Arizona after throwing six shutout innings against Pittsburgh for his first major-league victory April 21.

Mitre's earned-run average rose to 5.13, but whether Baker will make an audible in the rotation remains to be seen. When Rusch was called up from Triple-A Iowa last week, there wasspeculation he eventually would replace Mitre as the fifth starter until Mark Prior returns from his Achilles' tendon injury.

Mitre said he isn't worried.

"Not at all," he said. "I'm doing my work. I think I'll do the same thing next outing. I'm making good pitches. I just have to keep working and things will turn around."

Baker is not considering a change yet, arguing that sometimes you have to accept "growing pains."

Before the game, he said: "Rusch wasn't exactly killing the world either, or else he wouldn't be on three or four teams. He's trying to find himself and get himself back together. Before you start taking guys out … I'm a guy who sticks with guys until they prove I shouldn't. Mitre has done a fine job for us. I don't think anyone expected Mitre to do this well."

Patterson's defensive gamble in the third inning turned into a run when he tried to catch Matt Kata's sinking liner. But the ball rolled past him to the warning track as Kata wound up with a triple.

"He hit it, and right then I had to make a decision," Patterson said. "I gave it all I had, and unfortunately it got past me. You have to make your call then and there."

Alex Cintron brought Kata home with an RBI groundout and the D-backs never trailed.