Cubs stage big rally, but fall to Mets late

Cubs stage big rally, but fall to Mets late

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs are having a tough time finding the right inning for LaTroy Hawkins.

Doug Mientkiewicz hit a tie-breaking homer with one out in the eighth off Hawkins to lift the New York Mets to a 7-4 victory Monday night over the Cubs, who lost for the eighth time in nine games. Mike Piazza drove in four runs for the Mets, hitting a three-run homer and an RBI single.

Michael Barrett had tied the game at 4 with a game-tying, three-run homer in the Cubs' sixth. But Mientkiewicz connected on his sixth home run off the first pitch he saw from Hawkins (1-4), his former teammate on the Minnesota Twins. The Cubs are 5-8 in one-run games.

"I was trying to get strike one, that's all. And he was swinging," Hawkins said.

"He's snake bit right now," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of Hawkins. "We put him in a setup role and he made a bad pitch on his former teammate, Mientkiewicz."

"Everybody gets in funks," Cubs pitcher Jon Leicester said. "He'll be back."

Hawkins was 4-for-7 in save situations as the Cubs closer and was bumped from that role by the team's decision to move Ryan Dempster to the pen.

"Just turn the page and get them tomorrow," Hawkins said of his mental approach. "I'm going to be the same regardless. Whether I go out there and give it up, or don't. You'll never know.

"Be consistent, that's all. Can't get too high, can't get too low," he said. "I didn't always have success. I've been there before. I know there's brighter days."

The crowd of 37,562 at Wrigley Field wasn't very supportive of Hawkins.

"They'll be clapping for me one day, I guarantee it," he said.

Maybe they were in a foul mood because of the weather. The game was delayed twice by rain. There was a brief, 20-minute stop after Corey Patterson singled to lead off the Cubs' first, and another 1 hour and 14 minute delay after Kazuo Matsui homered with one out in the Mets' second.

"I wanted to give us a couple good innings, get a couple times through the order, and give us a chance to put some runs on the board and get a 'W,'" said Leicester, who was making his first Major League start.

The right-hander, called up from Triple-A Iowa, gave up four runs on five hits, including two homers, and one walk over three innings for the Cubs. He shrugged off the rain delays.

"It gave me a chance to sit back and think about some things and correct some mistakes I made earlier," Leicester said of the extra time.

With two out in the Mets' first, Carlos Beltran and Cliff Floyd both singled, and both tallied on Piazza's sixth home run. Matsui's homer, his second, made it 4-0. Both came off Leicester.

   Jon Leicester  /   P
Born: 02/07/79
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 230 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

"It all happened so fast," Leicester said of the first inning. "I'd have to look at the tape to see where the pitch was [to Piazza]. It wasn't executed, that's for sure."

The Cubs tied the game in the sixth. They had runners at first and third with one out when starter Aaron Heilman departed. Jeromy Burnitz greeted Dae-Sung Koo with an RBI single, and Barrett followed with his homer, his fourth of the year.

"Hits are eluding us at the back end of the ballgame," Baker said.

Leicester knew exactly what Hawkins was going through.

"It's an unsung role," Leicester said of middle relief. "You do well and nobody hears about you. You do poorly and you're on the gallows. There's so little room for error."

Hawkins knows that only too well.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.