CHICAGO (AP) -The Chicago Cubs sent a parade of rookies to the mound during another loss at Wrigley Field, then said goodbye to a popular former All-Star.
There were no such problems for the San Diego Padres, who just keep following the same formula to more victories.
Matt Stairs, taking advantage of a rare outfield start, hit a two-run double and Adrian Gonzalez homered, powering San Diego to a 5-1 victory over Chicago on Wednesday.
The reeling Cubs announced after the game that they had traded Derrek Lee to the Atlanta Braves for three minor leaguers. The big first baseman was still at Chicago's cozy ballpark when the deal went down, watching the Padres add another win to the NL's best record.
Clayton Richard allowed one run and seven hits in 6 2-3 innings for the Padres, who have outscored opponents 53-20 while winning nine of their last 10 games. San Diego (72-47) is 25 games over .500 for the first time since its pennant-winning 1998 season.
``Today's game is how we play,' manager Bud Black said. ``We're having good pitching performances and we're playing good defense. The way we're playing makes us confident going into every game.'
The disappointing Cubs (50-71) - whose season-opening payroll was more than $100 million greater than that of the Padres - lost their sixth straight home game and are 4-17 overall since July 27.
Lee arrived in Chicago with great fanfare in 2004, joining a club that lost to Florida in the NL championship series. But the Cubs didn't make the playoffs in '04, and the division-winning teams of 2007 and 2008 went a combined 0-6 in the playoffs.
After joining Ted Lilly, Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot as recently traded Cubs, Lee was asked if the culture of losing - 102 title-free years - has contributed to the failure.
``I think so. Having to hear about losing kind of puts you in a negative environment,' Lee said. ``I don't think that's conducive to winning. I think you want a little more positive energy going on.
``But I also think everyone understands that when they come here. That's what you're going to hear until the team wins. Honestly, it's one of the enticing things. Everyone wants to come here and be on that team that finally breaks the so-called curse.'
One of baseball's top pinch hitters, Stairs was making his 12th start for the Padres - his 12th team in 18 seasons. He didn't seem at all rusty when he faced Casey Coleman in the first inning with the bases loaded, doubling off the top of the left-field wall to give Richard all the support he would need.
Long considered a defensive liability, Stairs also made a run-saving catch in left field in the second inning.
``If I dive for it tomorrow there's a pretty good chance I miss it,' Stairs said. ``Maybe most guys catch that (without diving) because they're a little quicker than I am.'
Gonzalez hit a solo drive in the third for his 23rd homer and fifth in his last six games at Wrigley. Gonzalez, who also singled and walked three times, has a career .329 average in Chicago's longtime home.
``We consistently have quality at_bats,' he said. ``We make pitchers work for outs. Over the course of a game we try to wear the pitcher down, and then we have good enough pitching that when we score a couple runs it's going to be enough.'
Gonzalez scored for the third time on Andrew Cashner's eighth-inning wild pitch and Chase Headley added a sacrifice fly in the ninth.
Coleman (0-1) allowed three runs and six hits over 4 1-3 innings in his first start for the Cubs. The right-hander was followed by five more rookies, setting a single-game franchise record on the mound.
Alfonso Soriano and Jeff Baker hit consecutive doubles in the second for the Cubs, but that was all they could muster against Richard (11-5), who improved to 4-0 in his last five starts.
It didn't matter to him that he defeated a beaten-down team.
``You can't look at your opponent, even if they're struggling, as a lesser opponent,' Richard said. ``Everyone is here for a reason, and as a pitcher we have to attack.'
NOTES: San Diego improved to 36-25 on the road and 25-12 in day games. ... Padres CF Tony Gwynn left in the sixth inning with what the team called a sprained right wrist. He was injured while fouling off a pitch. ... Before Wednesday, Richard was 1-6 with a 5.61 ERA in day-game starts, compared to 20-9 and 3.90 at night. ... Slumping Cubs rookie Tyler Colvin will return to the outfield Thursday after getting a four-game ``breather,' manager Lou Piniella said. ... The announced attendance at Wrigley was a season-low 33,267.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved