Cubs 9, Brewers 3
MILWAUKEE (AP)—Rich Hill acknowledged that he was a little excited in the sixth inning.
His perfect game ended abruptly, and he was facing a jam with two on and nobody out. But the typically stonefaced Hill pumped his fist after retiring the final three batters, capped by striking out Prince Fielder on three straight breaking pitches—the final one sidearmed.
“It was not the norm,” Hill said of his fist-pumping gesture. “I’m pretty mellow, but that was pretty exciting.”
Hill, who was shaky in his final exhibition stint of the spring and sore from a blister on his hand, got all the run support he needed before he stepped on the mound. The Cubs scored six times in the first inning, capped by Mark DeRosa’s two-run homer.
Hill’s run at a perfect game and a shutout ended in the sixth when Corey Hart led off and hit a fastball deep into the Brewers’ bullpen to cut Chicago’s lead to 6-1.
“He threw fastballs, came back with the curveball,” Hart said. “I guessed right, it was fastball.”
The left-hander took advantage of his early lead, using his big breaking ball and a sharp fastball to stymie the Brewers. He struck out the leadoff hitters in four of the first five innings, primarily using his well-regarded curveball, which drops from 12-to-6 and often helps him adjust to the proper arm slot when he’s struggling to locate his low-90s fastball.
Hill (1-0) had no problem against the Brewers, who couldn’t get a read on either pitch, especially when he mixed in his changeup. Rickie Weeks struck out twice, as did Bill Hall, who also struggled for the second straight game as the team’s new center fielder.
After Hart’s homer, Hill and the Cubs lost their confidence briefly, committing back-to-back errors. After Hill got a visit at the mound, he settled down and retired the next three batters, capped by his sixth and final strikeout.
Hill threw three straight breaking balls, but dropped to a lower, sidearm slot to finish off Fielder.
“It was like a slider,” he said. “A drop-down slider.”
When asked why he never talked about it or showed it before, he made a hush-hush gesture and smiled.
“(Don’t want) to show all your cards,” he said.
The Cubs answered in the seventh off reliever Claudio Vargas, who came in after Brewers starter Dave Bush (0-1) settled down following his miserable first inning. Cliff Floyd doubled in a run and Michael Barrett added an RBI single to make it 8-1. In the eighth, Ronny Cedeno batted for Hill and hit his first pinch-hit home run to give the Cubs a 9-1 lead.
The Cubs also made the most of their early opportunities. After scoring seven runs in their first three games, Chicago rapped out six runs off six hits while batting through the order in the first.
“We came out swinging the bats, and Rich made them hold up,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. “That’s what you like to see.”
After Aramis Ramirez hit an RBI single to open scoring, the Cubs got a break when Floyd’s deep drive was misjudged by Hall in center as he stuck his glove up in desperation. Hall compounded the problems with a poor relay throw—the Brewers’ first error of the year—allowing Derek Lee and Ramirez to score.
“He’s new. He’s learning,” Floyd said. “I never counted him out until he turned all the way around, and I knew I beat him then. It’s a learning process.”
Floyd came in after Barrett, hitless in his first 11 at-bats, singled him home, and DeRosa followed with a two-run homer, his second in as many games, to cap scoring in the inning.
“It was as bad as it could be in the first inning,” Bush said.
Kevin Mench hit a two-run double with two outs in the ninth to make it 9-3.
Bush, who won nine of his 12 games last season at Miller Park, settled down after the first. He allowed just two more hits for a total of eight and finished with seven strikeouts in six innings.
The Brewers said Hall will wear No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day on April 15. … Twelve of the 15 meetings between the clubs come before the All-Star break. … One Cubs fan had a sign that said: “Your Brew isn’t as Sweet as Lou” in reference to Piniella.
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