The Padres look to complete a season sweep of the Cubs on Sunday when the teams close out a three-game series at Wrigley Field.
The Padres (21-16), who have won 13 of their last 14 games, swept the Cubs (15-21) last week in a four-game series at San Diego. Piazza hit a three-run ninth-inning home run off Cubs closer Ryan Dempster to provide the winning margin in a 4-3 victory Saturday, and the veteran backstop has five hits and five RBIs in the first two games of this series.
“Just elation,” said Piazza, whose homer was the 401st of his career. “Any time you get a chance to come back, especially in a game that (Greg) Maddux is pitching so well—we were fortunate.”
Piazza, who is hitting .253 overall, has a .326 batting average (14-for-43) on the road. He has nine homers and 36 RBIs in 217 lifetime at-bats at Wrigley Field.
San Diego’s previous best season record against Chicago was 8-4, accomplished in 1980, 1982 and 1991, and the Padres have not swept a three-game series at Wrigley Field since Sept. 4-6, 1992.
The Cubs have lost three straight and 12 of their last 13 games, continuing a free fall that coincided with the wrist injury to star first baseman Derek Lee. Greg Maddux, who was on the verge of his NL-high sixth win, has five of Chicago’s nine victories by starting pitchers.
Rookie pitcher Rich Hill (0-2, 9.00 ERA) will try to help the Cubs avoid a sweep as they hope he is more effective than his first two starts. The right-hander went six innings Tuesday against the Giants, giving up five runs and eight hits while walking three and striking out four in a 6-1 loss.
“I think everybody’s just dealing with it in their own way,” Hill said last week of the Cubs’ skid. “I don’t see anybody getting tight. We’re still loose and having fun. It’s tough to stay positive but the only way you’ll get out of it is to stay positive and keep believing.”
The Padres turn to Clay Hensley (1-2, 4.73), who is making his sixth start. The rookie right-hander hasn’t received a decision in his last two starts, including Tuesday’s 5-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. Hensley allowed four runs and eight hits, including two home runs, in five innings before the Padres suffered a 10-inning loss. pitched five innings, giving up four runs and eight hits—two of which were home runs—while walking three and striking out four.
Cubs outfielder Jacque Jones, who picked up his 1,000th hit with an RBI single Saturday, is 18-for-51 (.353) with three homers and nine RBIs in his last 15 games.