Cubs 9, Padres 3

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SAN DIEGO (AP)—The Chicago Cubs couldn’t be playing much better as they try to regain the NL Central lead.

Sammy Sosa hit a two-run homer for the second straight game and Moises Alou and Eric Karros also connected for the Cubs, who routed the bumbling San Diego Padres 9-3 on Thursday for a three-game sweep.

The Cubs, who came into Thursday trailing division leader Houston by 2 1/2 games, have won nine of 12. Six Cubs players had two hits apiece and four had two RBIs each.

“I hope we can continue this run,” Karros said. “We haven’t had a prolonged run at all this year. Maybe this is our time.”

The Cubs’ first seven runs all came with two outs and Carlos Zambrano gave the Cubs another outstanding performance by a starter.

“It was a very good day for us,” manager Dusty Baker said.

Of course, the Cubs were playing the last-place Padres, who trailed the Cubs in every inning of the series and were outscored 15-5.

“Today was an ugly day for us all around,” Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. “It was tough for us to get a third out to close out an inning.”

The Padres made numerous mistakes, including on the same play in the fourth when right fielder Phil Nevin threw to the wrong base and third baseman Sean Burroughs tagged a runner with his glove while the ball was in his other hand.

It was the eighth time the Padres have been swept this year, and they struck out 32 times in the three games, including 13 on Thursday.

Zambrano (10-8) won his fourth straight start, allowing one run and seven hits in six innings.

“We’re starting to put it together,” Baker said. “You can’t get overconfident. Key is getting big pitching. Whenever our pitching holds them to three runs, we have a great chance to win.”

Zambrano struck out eight and walked three and followed up wins in the first two games of the series by Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.

“They are completely overpowering,” Padres slugger Rondell White said of the three young Cubs’ pitchers. “They’ve got to be the top threesome in the league.”

Sosa hit his 26th homer of the season and 525th of his career, a shot estimated at 427 feet in the third off Kevin Jarvis (4-4). On Wednesday night, he hit a 448-foot drive off Adam Eaton.

Three pitches later, Alou hit an opposite-field homer to right, his 17th, to make it 4-0. Karros hit his 10th homer in the fifth, a two-run shot to left-center.

With two outs in the Cubs fourth and Karros on second and Paul Bako on first, Kenny Lofton singled to right. Karros pulled up at third, then headed home when he saw that Nevin was throwing to third instead of the plate.

Bako stopped some 20 feet short of third. Burroughs ran him down and tagged him with his glove, but the ball was in his right hand and Bako was safe at third. Ramon Martinez then singled to score Bako and Lofton for a 7-0 lead.

Nevin was moved to left field in spring training, dislocated his left shoulder diving for a ball and has played in right since returning from the disabled list on July 23.

In the third, Miguel Ojeda tagged up on Mark Loretta’s sinking liner that Sosa caught in right, but didn’t try to score. Sosa’s throw was well wide of the plate.

The Padres had the bases loaded twice with one out and failed to score. Dave Hansen homered in the eighth, his first, and Ryan Klesko had an RBI single in the sixth.

The Padres did make one nice play. As right fielder Brian Buchanan and second baseman Lou Merloni converged on Aramis Ramirez’s fly in the seventh,the ball bounced off Buchanan directly to Merloni.


The Cubs swept the Padres for the first time since 1999, and got their first sweep in San Diego since 1993. … The Cubs have hit consecutive homers six times this season, the previous time on June 24 against Milwaukee. … OfSosa’s six hits in 14 lifetime at-bats against Jarvis, five are homers.

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