Bats unable to support Hill in defeat
Young starter allows four runs in 6 2/3 innings in first loss of '07
CHICAGO -- Rich Hill threw 108 pitches Tuesday night. He'd like to have about four of them back.
Hill gave up more runs on one swing by Prince Fielder than he had in 25 previous innings when the Milwaukee slugger hit a two-run homer to power the Brewers to a 4-1 victory over the Cubs. Kevin Mench added a solo shot off Hill, who suffered his first loss in four starts.
"Look, the guy's human," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said of Hill, who entered the game leading the National League with a 0.41 ERA. "He wasn't as sharp as he's been. He still kept us in the ballgame."
Hill (3-1) had given up one run on eight hits over 22 innings before Tuesday, and that came on Corey Hart's home run on April 6. But the Brewers collected four runs on six hits and three walks over 6 2/3 innings, and Hill's ERA jumped to 1.57.
"I just made some bad pitches and they got magnified," Hill said. "Some days you make bad pitches and get away with it. Tonight wasn't one of those nights."
Still, the Brewers were impressed.
"Even last year, you could see that kid gaining a little confidence, and you knew when he did that he was going to be pretty good," Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said. "He's turned out to be a real nice pitcher. He's tough."
Hill retired the first 10 batters he faced before J.J. Hardy doubled with one out in the fourth and Fielder followed with his fifth homer off an 0-2 pitch to make it 2-0. The runs ended Hill's scoreless-innings streak at 19, the longest by a Cubs starter since Carlos Zambrano's 22-inning stretch in 2004.
"That was a bad pitch [to Fielder]," Hill said. "That's what he should do is hit it out."
Mench connected with two outs in the sixth, his second homer of the season, to make it 3-0. Damian Miller walked to lead off the Milwaukee seventh, and two outs later, Piniella went to check on Hill. The lefty stayed in the game, and served up an RBI single to Rickie Weeks. Hill was then pulled.
"The best thing about this game is tomorrow's another day and another start," Hill said. "You don't try to change anything, just make sure mistakes aren't made like they were tonight."
|"Once in a while, we have a good game and we put some nice runs on the board and you think, 'Here we come.' One of these days, we'll break the barn door down and get going."|
|-- Lou Piniella|
Before the game, Piniella said he planned on keeping the lineup constant, which means fans will see Tuesday's combination often. They just couldn't come up with a big hit when needed. The Cubs loaded the bases with one out in the second, but Suppan got Cesar Izturis to ground into an inning-ending double play. Chicago had runners at first and third with two outs in the third, but Aramis Ramirez popped up to end the inning. They wasted a leadoff double by Derrek Lee in the sixth as well.
"Our offense was bad today," Lee said. "We were bad today. There's not much you can say. It was a bad day."
The Cubs were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, and didn't tally until Mark DeRosa's RBI double in the ninth.
"We're better than this," Piniella said. "It's hard for us to score runs consistently. Once in a while, we have a good game and we put some nice runs on the board and you think, 'Here we come.' One of these days, we'll break the barn door down and get going."
What's even more surprising is that as of April 24, neither Alfonso Soriano, Jacque Jones or Lee has hit a home run. Zero.
"These guys are proven hitters," Piniella said. "We just have to be patient. It'll come."
Piniella met with the team after Monday's 5-4, 12-inning loss to the Brewers and told the players to relax.
"We just have to keep going, keep working hard," Lee said. "We're right back out here tomorrow. You just have to turn the page. The team's here. We've got to make it happen.
"We expected to be doing better," Lee said. "Our offense was one of our main strengths. It's not working out right now, but it's still April."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.