Jose Cruz, Jr and Kevin Kouzmanoff each hit two-run home runs, as the San Diego Padres defeated the Cubs 7-3 before a capacity St. Patrick's Day crowd of 12,764 and an international WGN-TV audience at extremely hot (record-setting mid-90's) and sunny Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa today.
Rich Hill started for the Cubs and went five strong innings, throwing 70 pitches (14/16/15/13/12) and surrendering three runs (earned) on three hits (one HR), no walks, and one HBP, and recording four strikeouts (Brian Giles called strike three twice, Jose Cruz, Jr once swinging, and Rob Bowen once swinging), over the course of the outing. His 4/7 GB/FB ratio was typical for Hill, a notorious "fly ball" pitcher.
Wearing green caps, the Padres scored one run in the top of the 1st on a first pitch triple by Marcus Giles and a one-out sacrifice fly by Geoff Blum. Also wearing green caps, the Cubs grabbed the lead in the bottom of the 1st on a three-run homer by Derrek Lee over the Dos Gringos stand beyond the left-centerfield berm, following a lead-off walk to Alfonso Soriano and a ground single to RF by Matt Murton. The Pads tied the score in the top of the 2nd on a two-run homer by Jose Cruz, Jr over the LF fence, following a lead-off HBP (Kevin Kouzmanoff).
Despite allowing three runs over five innings. Hill looked very sharp, throwing strikes and spreading his pitch count efficiently over his five innings. As such, he looked fresh in his last inning of work, like he could maybe have gone at least another inning, but he was probably on a 75-pitch count. Best of all, Hill retired the last ten men he faced.
Will Ohman entered the game in the top of the 6th with the score tied 3-3, and immediately gave up a lead-off triple to Brian Giles, as Jacque Jones made a foolish dive attempt (but missed, naturally), as the ball rolled all the way to the RF fence. (Earlier in the game, Jones made an outstanding "emergency" diving catch in short CF when Alfonso Soriano lost a fly ball in the sun). With the infield pulled in, Ohman got Geoff Blum on a grounder to Aramis Ramirez and Todd Walker on a called third strike, and looked like he might actually get out of the inning, before Kouzmanoff lined a single to left, scoring B. Giles with what turned out to be the winning run.
Carlos Marmol once again struggled with his command (21 pitches) in the 7th, giving up a double and a walk, but no runs. Neal Cotts continued his awful '07 ST, allowing a walk and a HR (and an infield single) in his one-inning of work. Les Walrond gave up the Padres final run in the 9th, on a lead-off walk and a double, followed by a one-out sac fly.
Other than Derrek Lee's dinger, the Cubs were mostly quiet offensively. They had runners on base in every inning (the Cubs left 10 men on base), but just could not get the big hit when they needed one. Only D-Lee had more than one hit (he homered in the 1st, and was left stranded after a lead-off double in the 3rd), and only three other starters reached base more than once (Soriano walked in the 1st and singled in the 2nd, Ramirez walked in the 5th and singled in the 7th, and Izturis drew walks in the 4th and 6th innings). Felix Pie was 1-1 in his one AB, a ground single to RF.
One troubling spectacle is Daryle Ward, who not only looks hopelessly out of shape for baseball, but maybe even out of shape for life in general. He might want to try Kerry Wood's diet. He struck out again today.
Besides Jacque Jones' ill-advised dive that resulted in a triple (and ultimately the go-ahead run), Michael Barrett made errors on consecutive plays in the top of the 6th, dropping a foul pop up as he banged into Derrek Lee (just let D-Lee catch it, Michael!), and then throwing a ball away while attempting to throw out Kouzmanoff trying to steal second. (Ohman did manage to get out of the inning without any further damage, though). On top of that, Barrett went 0-3 with three pop-ups, two with runners in scoring position.
The Cubs travel to Tempe tomorrow to face the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Diablo Stadium. Carlos Zambrano is the scheduled starter for the Cubs. For those of you in Chicago, the game will be televised on ComCast.