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Hill gives Cubs' lefties first win

Hill gives Cubs' lefties first win

CHICAGO -- Friday was a good first step for Cubs lefty Rich Hill.

Mark DeRosa had two hits, including a game-tying RBI single, and Hill gave up one run over five innings to help the Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 3-2.

Hill (1-0), making his first start since April 10, and first since spending the weekend in the bullpen, struck out four, walked three and gave up three hits. He and lefty Ted Lilly were winless in six starts prior to Friday's game.

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"It was a start in the right direction for him," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "Like I told him, he needs to build on this now. He went out there and threw the ball. There were a couple rough spots, but it was a vast improvement. He threw the ball well today and let it go."

Hill walked Pirates leadoff man Nate McLouth on four straight fastballs to start the game, but catcher Geovany Soto switched up the calls and got the lefty to throw his curve. It worked, and Hill struck out the next batter, Luis Rivas.

Hill didn't overhaul his delivery during his break.

"It wasn't anything mechanical that had to be adjusted," he said. "It was just approach and how you stay aggressive. I was talking about staying aggressive and attacking. The time previous, I wasn't doing that. It was almost to prove something to yourself to go out there and pitch like you know how to pitch."

Hill won 11 games last season, and posted a 3.92 ERA. He and Lilly have gotten off to rough starts, but Piniella said it was too early to consider replacing them.

"Let's get these guys straightened out," Piniella said. "They all pitched well last year. A few of them have scuffled, but let's not panic and worry about making drastic moves. They're capable of pitching, and let them get their work in."

Soto saw improvement by Hill.

"He was throwing the ball with a lot of confidence today," Soto said. "He walked a couple guys with two outs, but he never stopped pitching and had a pretty good outing, I think."

The Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the second when Jason Bay was safe on an infield single, stole second, and scored on Xavier Nady's single.

Kosuke Fukudome led off the Chicago fourth with his first Major League triple, and scored on DeRosa's single to tie the game. Soto doubled, and DeRosa scored on Reed Johnson's infield single. Hill was safe on a fielder's choice, advancing Soto, although he should've been bunting.

"We've got to talk about these signs a little more," Piniella said. "We were bunting in that situation. It surprised me a little bit when the ball was hit to the shortstop. Let's not confuse the issue -- [Hill] pitched well, and we won the baseball game."

Soto scored when Eric Patterson hit into a fielder's choice, opening a 3-1 lead. Patterson, called up to take the injured Alfonso Soriano's spot on the roster, was making his first start and picked up his first career RBI.

McLouth made it 3-2 when he homered to open the Pirates' eighth, sending a 2-2 pitch from Carlos Marmol into the center-field seats. Kerry Wood retired the side in order in the ninth for his fourth save in five tries. Wood had gotten up early to warmup, and the extra time in the 'pen was a bonus.

"I had the last couple days off and I didn't mind getting up and throwing a little more before going into the game," Wood said. "I threw more pitches than I normally throw. I think it helped."

Marmol and Wood were two of the five pitchers the Cubs used in the game. Piniella wanted to make sure Hill got the win.

"There was more in there," Hill said about being pulled after five, "but it's definitely something to build off of, and a good confidence booster to go into the next outing. What we were talking about in the dugout is it's something to build off."

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

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