After dominating his first three starts this year, Hill will try to bounce back from his first loss and lead Chicago (10-13) to its first three-game road sweep of the Cardinals in nearly 19 years on Sunday night.
Hill is 4-1 with a 1.82 ERA and .160 opponent batting average in his last six road appearances, including five starts. He didn’t record a decision in two starts against the Cardinals last year, allowing five runs and 10 hits in 10 1-3 innings.
With a win, Chicago would cap its first three-game road sweep of their NL Central arch-rival since Jeff Pico, Rick Sutcliffe and Greg Maddux earned the victories June 10-12, 1988.
The 27-year-old Hill (3-1, 1.57 ERA) had given up a run and eight hits in his first 22 innings this season before facing Milwaukee on Tuesday. In that 4-1 loss, the left-hander was tagged for four runs and six hits - including two homers - while pitching a season-low 6 2-3 innings.
“Look, the guy’s human,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said of Hill, who entered the game with an NL-best 0.41 ERA. “He wasn’t as sharp as he’s been. He still kept us in the ballgame.”
Chicago, which is trying to win four in a row for the first time since last Aug. 13-16, finally got a win Saturday from their presumed ace. Carlos Zambrano tossed seven innings of one-run ball for his first victory this season, and improved to 5-0 in his last eight starts versus St. Louis after Chicago’s 8-1 rout.
“I felt good and I made my pitches and I threw my pitches ahead in the count,” said Zambrano, a 16-game winner last year. “It’s nothing against the Cardinals.”
Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee went 2-for-4 with an RBI to raise his average to .391 on the season. He is just 5-for-23 (.217) but has two career homers off Kip Wells (1-4, 4.70), who starts the finale for the Cards.
Wells has lost his last three starts, and has gotten progressively worse with each one. The right-hander’s runs and hits allowed have increased in each outing while his innings pitched have decreased.
He lasted a season-low 4 2-3 innings against Cincinnati on Tuesday, giving up eight runs and nine hits - including three homers - with three walks in a 10-3 defeat.
“We need our starters, myself included, to give us a quality start and give us a chance to win,” Wells told the Cardinals’ official Web site. “To get us down like that, in that manner, doesn’t give us much of a chance. You’ve got to go out there and put up zeroes and have a good outing so that the team has a chance to win.”
The Cardinals (10-13) are 3-9 this season at Busch Stadium. Last year, en route to winning the franchise’s first championship in 24 years, St. Louis’ 10th home loss didn’t come until its 30th game at Busch.
Albert Pujols’ solo homer Saturday helped the Cardinals avoid being shut out for the second time this season. It was the 256th of Pujols’ career, moving him ahead of Ken Boyer into second place on the team’s career list behind only Stan Musial (475).