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No consistency: Hill, offense in valley again
Lou Piniella was complaining the other day about the Cubs' penchant for playing well one day and looking helpless the next.
"You can't have these hills and valleys we're in," he said.
But one night after a 10-run outburst, the Cubs were limited to two hits by New York right-hander Jorge Sosa and two relievers, falling 8-1 to the Mets on a long, dreary Wednesday night at Shea Stadium.
The game began after a 3-hour-7-minute rain delay and ended just before the clock struck 1 a.m.
But for all intents, the Cubs were toast by the second inning.
They entered the game with a .295 average in May, far and away tops in the National League, but have only an 8-6 record to show for it.
Rich Hill (4-3) suffered his second straight loss, allowing four runs on seven hits over six innings and tying a season-high with four walks. After giving up two or fewer runs in five of his first six starts, Hill has allowed nine runs over 11 innings in losses to Philadelphia and the Mets.
"I'm in a rut, definitely," Hill said. "I have to work my way out of it and get back on track."
Piniella said Hill's performance was marred by bases on balls and a lack of proper adjustments on the mound. He also cited Hill's problem in holding baserunners, after giving up stolen bases to the slow-footed Carlos Delgado and David Wright, both of whom got big jumps on the left-hander.
"He's in a little bit of a funk," Piniella said. "But he'll get better."
Hill retired the first five men he faced--three on strikeouts--before the Mets strung together three straight singles, scoring on Carlos Gomez's blooper to right.
Wright's bases-loaded pop-up to short right brought home another run, a rare sacrifice fly to the second baseman. Ryan Theriot caught it while backpedaling from the infield and was in no position to throw out Damion Easley after Easley tagged at third.
Easley's 445-foot, two-run homer in the fourth made it 4-0, and Hill had thrown 71 pitches after four innings.
Neal Cotts entered in the seventh and was hit for three more runs, the third time in four outings he has allowed a run after starting the season with 11 consecutive scoreless appearances. Bob Howry, relegated to mop-up duty, gave up the final run in the eighth.
One year ago this week, Hill was demoted to Triple-A Iowa after losing to the White Sox and getting ripped by Sox manager Ozzie Guillen for calling A.J. Pierzynski "gutless.'' Now he's considered one of the top left-handers in the league, despite his last two outings.
"That's the way things go," Hill said. "You come up and get a little taste. Early on when I was coming out of the bullpen, I had some successes here and there. It seems to me that that's usually how it works. That's the way baseball is--so hot and cold. Guys go in streaks and how long can you hold that? How long can you ride that wave? Ride it, ride it, ride it and then come back down and pick up another one."
Hill appears to be coming back down from his original wave this season and now must try to catch another one in his next start, scheduled Tuesday night in San Diego. The early success he enjoyed has brought Hill more notoriety, but if he doesn't sustain it, the stretch will be considered a blip.
"Somebody once told me you always want to play on edge," Hill said. "You never want to lose that edge because there are other guys coming up. There are guys in Double-A and Triple-A, guys getting drafted this June who are going to be wanting to come up here and take my spot. That's just the way it is."