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Lilly struggles as Cubs drop opener

Lilly struggles as Cubs drop opener

CHICAGO -- The Cubs not only missed opportunities at the plate on Thursday, but also a chance to finish the month of April at .500.

Adam LaRoche hit two homers, including one into a 27-mph wind, and drove in five runs and Kelly Johnson tied a career high with four hits, including a three-run homer, to power the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 13-5 victory over the Cubs, who lost their third straight.

The wind was not blowing out only during the D-backs' innings at Wrigley Field, it just seemed that way.

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"Usually days like this are high scoring both ways," Chicago's Derrek Lee said. "We need to find a way to swing the bats a little better."

The pitchers would appreciate it. Ted Lilly (1-1) was making his second start since coming off the disabled list. The lefty, whose first start was delayed while he rehabbed from arthroscopic shoulder surgery, threw six shutout innings Saturday in Milwaukee.

But LaRoche connected twice off Lilly, hitting a three-run opposite-field blast in the fourth and a solo shot to right into the wind in the fifth. Lilly said he was a little off, even in the first three innings. It's the first time he's given up six or more runs since July 20, 2009, at Philadelphia, when he was charged with nine (seven earned).

"For me, you go out and try to execute pitches whether the wind was blowing in or blowing out," Lilly said. "Regardless of the conditions or the score, I want to go out there and make good pitches and control what I can. The wind or the score or all those things, to me, are somewhat irrelevant. The No. 1 thing when you're out there pitching is locating the ball and changing speeds."

Lilly lasted five innings, giving up seven hits and six runs, the second-highest run total off a Cubs starter this year behind Carlos Zambrano, who served up eight on Opening Day to the Atlanta Braves.

"It's his second start of the year -- he'll get better," manager Lou Piniella said of the lefty.

Mike Fontenot was hit by a pitch by Arizona's Ian Kennedy (1-1) to open the Chicago third, moved up on Lilly's sacrifice and scored on Ryan Theriot's two-out single, extending his hitting streak to nine games. That was all the offense for the Cubs until the eighth, when they loaded the bases and Kosuke Fukudome hit his first U.S. grand slam into the left-field bleachers.

"If runners are in scoring position, I try to relax and concentrate on the at-bat," Fukudome said through interpreter Hiro Aoyama.

Can he help his teammates with that?

"I think everybody has a difficult time," Fukudome said. "They're veterans and not rookies. They just need to find their way to get out of it."

There's no panic in the Cubs' clubhouse and players are trying not to get frustrated, but when the No. 3 hitter is batting .193 and the No. 4 hitter is hitting .159, it's tough to not throw things. The Cubs stranded 11 on Wednesday in a 3-2 loss to the Nationals. On Thursday, they totaled four hits over seven innings against Kennedy.

"In this game, you can't let yourself get frustated," said Lee, the Cubs' No. 3 man. "That's the worst thing you can do."

Lee is 1-for-17 in the past four games. How can he not get frustrated?

"You have to keep reminding yourself it's a long season, and hopefully you can't keep going this bad for too much longer," Lee said. "My swing is just off. I'm getting my pitch and rolling over and popping up. I have to figure out a way to get out of it."

Aramis Ramirez, the Cubs' cleanup hitter, said the team is wasting a lot of good outings by its starters. Thursday was a rare non-quality start.

"I don't know what's going on," Ramirez said. "Everybody's working hard, everybody's trying. We just haven't gotten it done. We just have to hit. We can't be playing close games all the time -- we all have to start hitting, including myself."

Lilly created a mess in the fourth when he walked both Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds to set up LaRoche's first homer. One out later, Cole Gillespie doubled and Chris Snyder hit his third homer of the year to go ahead 5-1.

The D-backs added seven runs in the seventh, taking advantage of an error by Ramirez. With the loss, the Cubs dropped to 10-13, with one game left in the month.

"We have to stabilize now," Piniella said. "We're only a few games under .500. We need a nice stretch. We had one for four games and now we're on the other side. We need to stabilize this thing and win some games and get above .500. That's what our job is, and that's what we're going to try to do."

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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