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SD@CHC: Ludwick hits a two-run homer to left field

CHICAGO -- Small ball wasn't working so well for the Padres, so they decided to play a little long ball.

Ryan Ludwick, Cameron Maybin and Chris Denorfia all homered as San Diego beat the Chicago Cubs, 5-4, on Wednesday at Wrigley Field to earn a split in a day-night doubleheader. The Padres finished 3-4 on their seven-game road trip through Houston and Chicago.

"Any time you can avoid a sweep, that's a good thing. Last two games were kind of tough, both walk-off wins. To battle back and get the win in the third, it was muy importante," Ludwick said, shifting into Spanish to emphasize the point.

Ludwick has always hit well at Wrigley and, according to him, the reason is simple.

"I love it," Ludwick said. "It's probably my favorite place to hit. Probably my favorite place to play, favorite place to hit, it's my favorite city to visit. I just love it here."

Besides homering in the second, a two-run shot off Cubs starter James Russell, Ludwick added doubles in the fourth and the sixth. He scored twice and drove in two runs. After going 2-for-4 with a walk in the first game, a 2-1 loss in 11 innings, Ludwick went 3-for-4 in the nightcap and is now 38-for-109 (.349) in his career at Wrigley Field, with seven homers and 29 RBIs in 32 games.

Ludwick's success in the second game may be a sign that he is snapping out of an early-season funk. He entered the nightcap hitting .161.

"I think the second game, that's probably the best I've felt at the plate in my Padres career, so that's about three months," Ludwick said. "Hopefully, I can build off that. I made a couple of adjustments, so maybe things will start to click a little bit."

Ludwick had help. Maybin showed his full range of skills, shining with his bat, glove and even his legs.

"We've seen that a couple of games early in the year, where the power shows up, the defense shows, stolen base shows up," said Padres manager Bud Black. "He has a chance to be a really fine, complete player as his career unfolds."

Maybin hammered a shot over the 400-foot sign into the batter's eye just right of center field, the deepest part of the ballpark. He stole a base in the second before scoring on Ludwick's home run, and saved two runs with a terrific catch to end the Cubs' half of the fifth.

"Yeah, it was just nice to help [Padres starter] Aaron [Harang] out," Maybin said. "It was a big play, man. He pitched his butt off and [Denorfia] came up the next inning with a big homer. It was just a total team effort."

Denorfia knocked Russell out of the game, driving a ball that landed in the basket in front of the left-field bleachers. That was San Diego's third homer of the game, matching a season high. The Padres also hit three homers in a 7-2 win over the Dodgers on April 10.

"Bats came alive," Black said. "It's good to see [Ludwick] get three hits. [Denorfia] got three hits as well. It's good to see us bounce back after a tough loss in the first game."

Russell said he threw a curve on the 0-1 pitch that Ludwick hit out.

"I was right there with [Cubs catcher Geovany Soto] on it," Russell said. "I made a good pitch and he hit it. I fell behind Maybin and got into a fastball count and threw him a fastball away, and he barreled it. Some days they hit them right at guys and some days they hit them out of the park."

Given the Padres' recent struggles at the plate, the five runs qualified as an offensive explosion. The Padres had nine hits -- all singles -- and drew nine walks in the opener on Wednesday, but stranded 16 runners in the game. It was the most runners San Diego left on base in a game since also stranding 16 against the Giants on Aug. 14, 2010.

"It's big, man," Maybin said. "This month has had quite a few ups and downs for us, but we've been battling, competing. It's always nice to just continue to fight and get a big win going back home."

Harang (4-0) was the beneficiary of the offensive support, and he continued the club's string of quality starts in Chicago. The right-hander scattered nine hits over six innings, allowing two runs and striking out five.

"Aaron pitched well," Black said. "Six solid innings, two runs. In the sixth, he started to elevate the ball a little bit, but the last 8-10 pitches, he really threw with conviction.

"We needed a great effort from a starter after an extra-inning Game 1. It's a long day at the ballpark. A lot of times it can get away from you if you're not careful, but both teams played hard."

In each of Harang's first three starts, he gave up one earned run and pitched six innings, making him 4-for-4 in quality starts. Overall, the Padres have gotten 13 quality starts in 18 outings.

"I'm just trying to help us win," Harang said. "I'm pitching the best I can to keep us in games. All the guys have been. We're all kind of feeding of each other.

"We all want to go out there and get through those first six innings to get it to our bullpen. We've got a good bullpen."

The linchpin of that bullpen, Heath Bell, pitched the ninth to earn his fifth save. It was also the 39th straight save opportunity Bell has converted, the longest active streak in the big leagues. He's three behind Trevor Hoffman for the Padres' franchise record set in 1997 and '98. Bell allowed at two-out single to Kosuke Fukudome, but struck out Darwin Barney looking to end the game.

"He's one of the best in baseball," Black said. "He made pitches throughout the inning and that last pitch to Barney was nasty."

Harang ran into trouble in the fifth. Alfonso Soriano led off with a double. With one out, Reed Johnson, the hero of Wednesday's first game, doubled into the left-field corner, scoring Soriano. However, Ludwick got the ball in to shortstop Jason Bartlett, who relayed to third baseman Chase Headley to cut down Johnson trying to stretch the play into a triple.

"That fifth inning it felt like I wasn't putting that final execution on my pitches," Harang said. "They were out there scrapping to get hits. Things worked out and we able to get through the sixth."

Johnson's ill-conceived aggression saved Harang's bacon, as Jeff Baker, Fukudome and Barney singled in succession. Baker scored, cutting San Diego's lead to 4-2. However, Harang escaped without further damage after Maybin ran down Starlin Castro's slicing drive with a lunging catch on the warning track in right-center field. The Cubs added two runs in the eighth on a two-run homer by Soriano off Padres righty Chad Qualls, his sixth of the season. Comments