Brewers 4, Cubs 1

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CHICAGO (AP)—Derek Lee has found the silver lining in the first 20 games of the Chicago Cubs’ season.

“It’s still April,” Lee said.

And the month got worse Tuesday when Prince Fielder homered for the second straight game, and the Milwaukee Brewers defeated the punchless Cubs 4-1.

“We were bad today,” said Lee, who went 2-for-4 to boost his average to .367. “It was a bad game, there’s not really much to say.”

With the wind blowing in and rain coming on late, the Cubs went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left seven men on base on a night when their best pitcher, Rich Hill, didn’t have his top stuff.

“It’s hard for us to score runs consistently,” manager Lou Piniella said. “Once in a while, we have a nice game where we put some runs on the board and we think, `Well, here we come.’ Then we sort of revert back. One of these days, we’ll break the barn door down and get going.”

Fielder ended a 19-inning scoreless streak for Hill (3-1) with a two-run drive in the fourth, his fifth homer of the season and third in two games. Kevin Mench added a solo homer in the sixth, and Rickie Weeks had an RBI single in the seventh.

Last-place Chicago (7-13), in its first season under Piniella, has lost three straight and dropped to 3-9 at Wrigley Field. The Cubs had runners in scoring position from the second to sixth innings, but couldn’t take advantage. In that span, they led off innings with hits four times. Chicago had the bases loaded in the second, but hit into the first of three double plays.

“We couldn’t get any of them in,” Piniella said.

Before the game, Piniella said he’s coming close to finalizing a constantly changing lineup. He didn’t change his mind after another poor offensive showing.

“We’re going to stay as constant as we can,” he said after the game. “You’re not going to see any big changes.”

The Cubs expected their offense to carry them with the additions of free agents Alfonso Soriano and Mark DeRosa, not to mention the return of Lee, who missed most of last season with a wrist injury. But Lee, Soriano and Jacque Jones still haven’t hit a home run. The team has just 16 homers, and 12 are from three players: Michael Barrett, Aramis Ramirez and DeRosa, who have four apiece.

“That’s hard for me to believe,” Piniella said. “We played an outfield today without a home run. That’s hard. These guys are proven hitters, so we just have to be patient and it’ll come.”

Milwaukee (13-7), which leads the NL Central by three games, has won four straight and six of seven. Jeff Suppan (3-2) allowed eight hits and one walk in eight scoreless innings, repeatedly pitching out of trouble.

“I was just trying to be as quick as I could out there,” Suppan said. “I just tried to keep the pace.”

After DeRosa hit an RBI double off Derrick Turnbow in the ninth, Francisco Cordero struck out pinch-hitter Cliff Floyd for his eighth save.

Hill, whose victories have come after Cubs’ losses, pitched three perfect innings, then allowed J.J. Hardy’s double and Fielder’s homer on an 0-2 pitch, which came against a strong wind blowing in from Lake Michigan. Fielder hit two homers in Milwaukee’s 5-4, 12-inning victory Monday night.

“I thought I hit it enough to at least get in the basket,” Fielder said of his homer Tuesday. “It had just enough.”

Hill allowed four runs, six hits and three walks in 6 2-3 innings.

“I just made some bad pitches,” Hill said. “They got magnified. Some days, you go out there and make bad pitches and get away with it. Tonight wasn’t one of those nights.”

Notes

Cubs RHP Mark Prior had exploratory arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in Birmingham, Ala. The Cubs said they would release a statement on the results of the procedure on Wednesday. … Cubs radio broadcaster and former All-Star Ron Santo was released from a hospital and was resting at home, WGN radio reporter Dave Kaplan said. Santo was hospitalized for a heart ailment that did not require surgery. He’s expected to miss the team’s upcoming six-game trip. … Cubs rookie OF Felix Pie started in center alongside Alfonso Soriano in left for the first time. Pie hit second after Soriano, becoming the seventh Cub to hit in that spot this season. … The Brewers are six games over .500 for the first time since July 1, 2004. … The Brewers have hit homers in 10 straight games at Wrigley.

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