After the first two games featured fan interference, showboating, a bench-clearing skirmish and a near no-hitter, the teams close out their season series in the set’s decisive game Sunday at Wrigley Field.
Russell Branyan homered in the ninth inning off Chicago’s Carlos Zambrano - who took a no-hitter into the eighth - in the Padres’ 1-0 win Saturday to even the series.
Earlier, Chicago’s Derrek Lee threw a punch at San Diego pitcher Chris Young in the fourth after he was hit in the left hand with a pitch he thought was aimed at his head. Young denied he tried to hit Lee, but the incident caused both benches to clear and resulted in Lee, Young, Padres pitcher Jake Peavy and Cubs’ hitting coach Gerald Perry all being ejected.
“I just wish it didn’t happen. I don’t want to miss any games,” said Lee, who is hitting .471 (8-for-17) with four doubles on the Cubs’ current homestand, but is facing a possible suspension. “I don’t condone fighting. I don’t like to fight. Obviously, I lost my temper and it’s unfortunate. You don’t want it to happen.”
Losing Lee for an extended period of time would hurt the Cubs, who have played well of late despite already being without injured third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Chicago is 4-2 on the homestand that concludes Sunday and 9-5 since losing six straight from May 27-June 2.
Saturday’s happenings came after the Cubs twice overcame fan interference to win 4-1 in Friday’s opener. In the same contest, the Padres were upset after Alfonso Soriano admired his sixth-inning homer off David Wells before breaking into his trot.
Zambrano finished with a two-hitter in the loss Saturday, while San Diego relievers Justin Hampson, Heath Bell and Trevor Hoffman allowed only two hits in six innings to help preserve the Padres’ major league-leading 11th shutout.
Branyan, who’s hitting .230, hit his fifth homer and first since May 18.
“I was just hoping (Zambrano) could make a mistake or something, but I think the pitch I hit was a good pitch,” Branyan said.
The Padres, who hold a 4-3 lead in the season set with Chicago, can win their fifth straight road series with a victory Sunday. Their pitchers have allowed only five runs in four games and have the major league’s lowest ERA at 2.92.
Greg Maddux (5-3, 3.86 ERA) makes his second start against the Cubs since they traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 31 for shortstop Cesar Izturis. The four-time Cy Young Award winner, who went 133-112 in two stints with the Cubs from 1986-92 and 2004-06, allowed three runs in five innings in San Diego’s 4-3, 14-inning win at Chicago on April 17.
The right-hander is 11-3 with a 2.48 ERA in 21 starts against the Cubs and 5-1 with a 2.16 ERA in 11 starts as an opponent at Wrigley. He allowed three earned runs and six hits in 6 1-3 innings, but didn’t factor in the Padres’ 11-4 loss at Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
Chicago will counter with Rich Hill (5-4, 2.81), who allowed three runs and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings in the Cubs’ 5-3, 13-inning home loss to Seattle on Tuesday.
He was also caught by television cameras in a lively dugout discussion with catcher Michael Barrett, who earlier this month was involved in a physical dugout and clubhouse confrontation with Zambrano.
“No disagreement,” Hill told the Cubs’ official Web site. “He was telling me to hang in there. I was getting a little frustrated.”
The left-hander is 1-3 with a 3.83 ERA in his last seven starts after going 4-1 with a 1.73 ERA in his first six. Hill allowed five runs in six innings of a 5-1 loss at San Diego on May 22 to fall to 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA against the Padres.