CHICAGO (AP) -- Earlier in his career, Rich Hill might never have regained control after beginning a game with a four-pitch walk.
Hill struggled at times with his command but won for the first time in three starts this season, helping the Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 Friday for their ninth victory in 12 games."It wasn't anything mechanically that had to be adjusted, it was just the approach," Hill said. "I stayed aggressive. I always talk about that; staying aggressive and attacking. The game previous to this one, against the same team, I wasn't doing that. It's almost to prove something to yourself, to go out there and pitch like you know how to pitch."Hill (1-0) combined with four relievers on a six-hitter, allowing one run, three hits and three walks in five innings with four strikeouts. Jon Lieber, Sean Marshall, Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood followed, with Wood pitching a perfect ninth for his fourth save in five chances.Mark DeRosa doubled and drove in a run, and Reed Johnson hit a tiebreaking single in a three-run fourth inning as Chicago sent the Pirates to their third straight loss. The Cubs swept the Pirates in a three-game series earlier this season at Pittsburgh and have won seven straight against the Pirates dating to Sept. 21.DeRosa, who doubled leading off the second and singled in the tying run, is batting .321. His good start follows a difficult spring training in which he got the flu, doctors performed a procedure to cure an irregular heartbeat, and the Cubs discussed replacing him with Baltimore's Brian Roberts."I don't want to say I'm surprised, because I take pride in my offense, but coming off the spring I had, I wasn't expecting to get off to as good of a start I have," DeRosa said. "I'm just trying to keep a low profile and keep hitting."DeRosa was impressed with Hill, who won 11 games last year and finished fifth in the NL in strikeouts with 183."I think Rich just needs to relax and have fun. He's such a talented kid and such a talented pitcher," DeRosa said. "He's one of the big reasons we won the division last year. He battles himself mentally to be perfect. It's a game of imperfections."Hill walked leadoff man Nate McLouth on four fastballs in the first, so catcher Geovany Soto started calling for Hill's big curve earlier in counts."He was throwing the ball with a lot of confidence once we got the curveball going," Soto said.Ian Snell (2-1) lost for the first time in seven starts since Sept. 8 -- also against the Cubs -- and Nate McLouth hit a solo home run, with a slight crosswind, against Marmol in the eighth to extend his season-opening hitting streak to 16 games."I hit it well, but I didn't think it was going out," McLouth said. "Obviously, this yard is a little smaller than some -- especially in the power alleys."Pittsburgh put two more runners on, but Marmol fanned Adam LaRoche for his fifth strikeout. Marmol had struck out the side in the seventh.Xavier Nady hit an RBI single in the second and held at third on Jose Bautista's two-out double off the left-field wall. Pirates manager John Russell said holding at was the right move, even with the Snell up next. The pitcher wound up striking out."The ball was hit hard, and there's not much chance," Russell said. "You'd have to be a pretty speedy guy and [even] then it'd be a risk."Kosuke Fukudome hit his first major league triple leading off the fourth and scored on DeRosa's single. After Johnson put the Cubs ahead, rookie Eric Patterson added an RBI grounder.Snell gave up three runs and nine hits in six innings, striking out five and walking one."I just didn't keep two guys in check and they got a bat on the ball," he said.
Cubs manager Lou Piniella, who managed at Cincinnati in the early '90s, didn't agree with Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman, who said Cubs fans were "obnoxious" for, among other things, littering the field with batting-practice baseballs after Adam Dunn homered at Wrigley earlier in the week. "I don't think our fans are obnoxious. I think they get into the ballgame," Piniella said. ... McLouth was caught stealing for the fourth time this season, but he has yet to be thrown out by a catcher. ... Johnson made a nice catch of a ball hit to deep center by McLouth in the third.