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Padres' solo act sinks Hill, Cubs
After dominating major-league hitters in April, Rich Hill's downward spiral continued Tuesday night at Petco Park.
San Diego pounded four home runs off Hill while cruising to a 5-1 victory as the Cubs started their West Coast swing on a sour note.
"Not the same pitcher that left spring training," Piniella said. "He was missing his spots. Some of those pitches that were hit out of the park, the catcher was sitting on the outside corner and the balls are inside. He's got to keep working. He's not throwing as hard, either, for whatever reason."
Mike Cameron launched two home runs off Hill, and Kevin Kouzmanoff and Adrian Gonzalez also connected, leaving Hill 1-3 with a 5.14 earned-run average over his last six starts. He was 3-0 with an 0.41 ERA over his first three starts.
Hill walked the first two hitters he faced and threw 10 balls in his first 12 pitches.
"I think I bounced back the second half of the game," Hill said. "I felt I was throwing the ball great. It came out of my hand the way I wanted it to. No complaints about that. I just didn't keep the team in the game and unfortunately made some bad choices on pitches."
Kouzmanoff's shot in the second followed by back-to-back homers by Cameron and Gonzalez in the third made it 4-1. The last Cubs pitchers to serve up four homers in a game were Mark Prior and Roberto Novoa, who did it in the same game, a 12-3 loss to Detroit on June 18, 2006, at Wrigley Field.
With Padres ace Jake Peavy on the hill, the Cubs were cooked after falling behind early. Peavy (6-1) held the Cubs to one run and four hits over six innings, lowering his league-leading ERA from 1.64 to 1.63.
After Cliff Floyd's run-scoring single in the first, only two more Cubs reached base off Peavy the next five innings. Four Padres relievers held them scoreless over the final three innings, stranding seven baserunners. Trevor Hoffman closed it out, posting his 12th save in 14 opportunities.
The only highlight for the Cubs was the sight of Angel Guzman throwing 1 2/3 innings of perfect relief. Piniella is hoping Guzman and Carlos Marmol can evolve into a 2007 version of the "Nasty Boys," the power-pitching bullpen trio of his 1990 World Series champion Cincinnati Reds.
"Adding Guzman out there, a nice power arm, and adding Marmol, a nice power arm . . . I think you'll see our bullpen stabilizing and we'll pitch much better," Piniella said.
Guzman is currently the closer-in-waiting behind Ryan Dempster, who followed Guzman in the eighth. The Cubs will see how Guzman's arm responds to back-to-back days working the seventh and eighth innings, and soon he will get an opportunity to close games.
"If this kid is throwing the ball well, yeah, we'll give him a chance," Piniella said. "Guzman can acclimate a little bit and learn from [Dempster]. And at the same time, down the road, we can look at the possibility of Dempster starting—down the road."
Alfonso Soriano was back in the leadoff spot Tuesday, one week after ESPN2 reported Piniella would move him down in the order.
"That's where he has done his best work," Piniella said. "The only reason we moved him to the three-hole was because Derrek Lee got hurt. If that hadn't been the case, he would've stayed in the No. 1 hole."
Piniella said he liked the job Ryan Theriot did leading off but that Soriano's career numbers suggest "he belongs in the No. 1 hole."