CHICAGO - Rich Hill is carrying a strong finish to last season into a new year and showing the potential to be a consistent winner for the Chicago Cubs.
"Knowing you belong here is a thing you have to have," Hill said Saturday after his sharp pitching and some small-ball offense helped the Cubs end a four-game losing streak by beating the Cincinnati Reds 7-0.
Pitching on seven days' rest, Hill limited the Reds to three singles over seven innings on a cold and windy day at Wrigley Field. In his first outing this season, Hill allowed only one hit and one run in seven innings against the Brewers.
"I was making them cause the action, making them swing the bat. That's as simple as I can make it," Hill added.
It took Hill 10 major league starts before he got his first win last August and then he went 3-1 in September. Now as the fourth starter in the rotation, he's pitched like an ace.
Hill (2-0), who had his only major league shutout against the Reds in September, was backed by strong defense that turned a pair of double plays. He did walk four, a surprise since he didn't walk a batter during spring training or in his first start.
"He's serious about his business. He goes out after you throwing strikes and he changes speeds. Rich can win a lot of ballgames for us this year," said Cubs manager Lou Piniella, who finally got his first win at Wrigley Field after three straight losses.
"Mike Barrett asked me if I wanted a baseball and it was a great gesture on his part. And I said, â€˜No,'" Piniella added.
"But yeah, it feels good to win a ballgame here and build on it. It's really a fun park to play in and manage in because of all the elements. It's almost like playing the British Open."
The Cubs broke through against Bronson Arroyo in the fifth, using a sacrifice fly by Ronny Cedeno and a suicide squeeze bunt by Cesar Izturis to take a 2-0 lead.
They drove the lanky Arroyo out in a five-run seventh inning that began with an error on Reds first baseman Jeff Conine for missing a throw.
"I just missed it. It was in the air. I should have caught it," Conine said.
Alfonso Soriano had an RBI infield hit and Ryan Theriot a run-scoring single to finish Arroyo (0-2). After reliever Jon Coutlangus walked Jacque Jones to load the bases, Derrek Lee hit a three-run double off Victor Santos.
"That's the way it goes man. I always say, it's 162 games and a long roller coaster. I'm just starting out on the bottom of the tracks. It'll turn around," said Arroyo, a 14-game winner and All-Star last season.
Michael Barrett and Floyd opened with singles in the fifth and moved up on Arroyo's wild pitch.
Cedeno delivered the sacrifice fly to left, also moving Floyd to third. With Floyd breaking for the plate, Izturis fell down in the box as he reached for the ball and dropped the bunt out in the front of the plate to make it 2-0.
"My job is the put the ball in play and if it goes away, try to make contact. That's what I did," Izturis said.
Floyd reached on Conine's error in the seventh and moved up on a sacrifice by Cedeno and a grounder. With two outs, the Reds intentionally walked pinch-hitter Daryle Ward and Soriano then beat out a grounder to shortstop to make it 3-0. Theriot followed with an RBI single to center to finish Arroyo. Moments later, Lee cleared the bases with a drive to right-center.
Why walk Ward to face Soriano? Because Soriano was just 2-for-19 against Arroyo entering the game.
"There was no reason for me to face a guy from the left side fresh off the bench that I don't know a ton about when I got a guy like Soriano that I've completely manhandled my whole career," Arroyo said.
"So, you know, I thought it was a good move. I got the ball I wanted from Soriano. I thought he was going to strike out or something weak. He just put it in a pretty good spot and (shortstop Juan) Castro couldn't quite make the play."
Bob Howry replaced Hill for the eighth and Ryan Dempster pitched the ninth to finish the six-hitter.
NEW YORK - Orlando Hernandez gave up three home runs before he was ejected for a beanball, and Washington got an impressive pitching performance from Shawn Hill in a victory over New York.
Dmitri Young, Ryan Church and Chris Snelling homered for the Nationals, who improved to 3-9 and gave rookie manager Manny Acta a victory against former boss Willie Randolph.
After Snelling's two-run shot made it 6-1 in the sixth, El Duque's next delivery ran up and in and hit Hill around the right forearm. Plate umpire Mike Winters quickly ejected an incredulous Hernandez (1-1), who argued vehemently.
Hill (1-2) earned his third major league win - his first since beating Philadelphia 6-0 on June 11 last year. The right-hander didn't pitch in the big leagues after June 28 last season because of a sore elbow.
Hill allowed two runs and eight hits in seven innings, matching the longest outing of his career. He walked one and set a career high with five strikeouts.
Acta was Randolph's third-base coach with New York for two years before the Nationals hired him during the offseason. Randolph won their first matchup Friday night.
PHILADELPHIA - Chase Utley homered and drove in the go-ahead run with an RBI double in the sixth and Jimmy Rollins hit his NL-leading sixth homer for Philadelphia.
Cole Hamels (1-0) picked up the win in his worst outing of the season, allowing five runs and eight hits in six innings. In his first two starts, he gave up two earned runs in 13 innings only to watch the bullpen blow both leads.
Francisco Rosario pitched a scoreless seventh, Antonio Alfonseca worked the eighth and Tom Gordon finished for his second save in three chances.
Jason Lane had a three-run homer and four RBIs for the Astros.
Houston starter Woody Williams (0-2) gave up six runs - five earned - and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings.
ST. LOUIS - Jeff Suppan beat St. Louis in his first chance since leaving the World Series champions as a free agent.
Rickie Weeks hit a tiebreaking two-run homer in the fifth inning for Milwaukee, who snapped the Cardinals' four-game winning streak.
The game was originally scheduled to start in the afternoon but the Cardinals decided Friday to push it back six hours to avoid a second straight rainout.
Suppan (1-2) allowed one run and five hits in 6 1-3 innings, a day after the Cardinals presented him with his World Series ring. He struck out five, walked none and scored the game's first run after drawing a walk with one out in the third.
Kip Wells (1-2) allowed three runs in seven innings for St. Louis, which got RBIs from Scott Rolen and Aaron Miles.
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