Padres 4, Cubs 3

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CHICAGO – Mike Piazza hit a three-run homer off Ryan Dempster in the ninth inning, and the surging San Diego Padres rallied for their 13th victory in 14 games, beating the slumping Chicago Cubs 4-3 on Saturday.

Mike Cameron led off the ninth with a single to center, and Brian Giles followed with a base hit to right. Piazza then hit his fourth homer, pulling an 0-1 pitch over the left-field wall to make it 4-3.

The Cubs have lost 13 of 15 games.

The blown save was the first in eight opportunities for Dempster (0-1). It spoiled a terrific start by Greg Maddux, who allowed an unearned run in 7 1-3 innings. Maddux left to a standing ovation with two runners on and a run in. Scott Eyre relieved, and pinch hitter Eric Young grounded into a double play.

San Diego starter Chris Young allowed three runs – two earned – and six hits, walked three and struck out four in seven innings. Cla Meredith (1-0) pitched a scoreless eighth.

Trevor Hoffman pitched a scoreless ninth for his seventh save in as many opportunities.

A Cubs offense that has struggled since Derrek Lee went on the disabled list last month with broken bones in his wrist showed some life in the first inning.

Back in the lineup after a day off, Jacque Jones collected his 1,000th hit when he drove in Ronny Cedeno with a single up the middle with two out. With a .340 average in his previous 14 games, Jones has been one of the few productive hitters lately. The next batter, Jerry Hairston Jr., made it 2-0 with a bunt single down the third-base line that drove in Aramis Ramirez.

Maddux worked a nine-pitch first inning, allowing Mike Cameron’s double, and retired the Padres on seven in the second. The 15-time Gold Glove winner ended that inning by racing back for an over-the-shoulder stab of Adrian Gonzalez’s chopper and firing to first.

It was vintage Maddux. He changed speeds, hit the corners. And the Padres looked like frustrated weekend golfers, lunging and flailing.

It was a big difference from Maddux’s previous two starts against Arizona and San Diego, when he allowed a combined 12 runs in 8 2-3 innings and saw his ERA rise from 1.35 to 3.64.

Maddux was a thorn on offense, too.

He singled with two out in the fourth and then, in a strange play, stole second as Young prepared to deliver his first pitch to Juan Pierre. Young turned and threw to second, but Maddux slid under Josh Barfield’s tag for his first steal since Aug. 6 at New York and the eighth of his career. Pierre then flied to left.

Notes: Kerry Wood, coming back from arthroscopic shoulder surgery, most likely will make his first start of the season Thursday when the Chicago Cubs play the Washington Nationals. He allowed a run on five hits and struck out three in five innings Friday in a rehab start for Triple-A Iowa. … The Padres placed right-handed pitcher Woody Williams on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left calf and purchased right-hander Jim Brower’s contract from Class A Eugene on Saturday.

AP-ES-05-13-06 1647EDT


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