Series: Game 1 of 3

Arizona leads 1-0 (as of 5/4)

Game 1: Tuesday, May 4
Chi Cubs3
Game 2: Wednesday, May 5
Chi Cubs0
Game 3: Thursday, May 6
Chi Cubs11

Diamondbacks 6

(11-14, 5-8 away)

Cubs 3

(15-11, 7-4 home)

    8:05 PM ET, May 4, 2004

    Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois 

    123456789 R H E
    ARI 001320000 6 10 2
    CHC 000000030 3 5 0

    W: S. Sparks (2-1)

    L: S. Mitre (1-2)

    S: J. Valverde (1)

    Sparks gets first win as starter in almost two years

    CHICAGO (AP) -- Steve Sparks had the ball dipping, dancing and darting all around the plate as only a knuckleballer can.

    Sparks befuddled the Chicago Cubs with the dizzying pitch Tuesday night, leading the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 6-3 victory and getting his first win as a starter in almost two years.

    "He was really, really good tonight, had that thing dancing all over the plate," Arizona manager Bob Brenly said. "When he needed to throw a strike with it, he was able to do that. When he wanted to have it dance around out of the strike zone, he was able to do that as well."

    Sparks scattered five hits over 7 1-3 innings. Sammy Sosa ended his bid for his first shutout since April 2001 with a three-run homer in the eighth inning.

    Matt Kata went 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored, finishing a home run shy of hitting for the cycle. Steve Finley continued to abuse Cubs pitchers, homering for the fifth time in four games against Chicago this year.

    Rookie Sergio Mitre (1-2) was hit hard by the Diamondbacks for the second time in a week. He gave up four runs and seven hits in four innings.

    Sparks (2-1) was facing Chicago for the first time, having spent the first nine years of his big league career in the American League, and the Cubs had trouble figuring out what to make of the knuckleballer.

    "He was dealing," Sosa said. "We don't face guys like that everyday. When the ball moves so much, you have to make adjustments."

    Sparks scattered five hits over 7 1-3 innings, and allowed a runner in scoring position only twice through the first seven innings. One of those was because of an error by third baseman Chad Tracy.

    "I'm not an exclusive knuckleball pitcher," Sparks said. "They were swinging early and often, and I just stayed with it. ... I probably threw maybe four fastballs and two sliders. I don't know how many pitches I threw (99), but the rest were knuckleballs."

    The Cubs finally got to Sparks in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Todd Hollandsworth led off with a double and, one out later, Corey Patterson drew a walk. That brought up Sosa, who sent Sparks' first pitch soaring into the bleachers in left-center for his seventh homer.

    New closer Jose Valverde struck out the side in the ninth for his first save of the year. It was Sparks' first victory as a starter since Aug. 16, 2002, at Baltimore, when he was pitching for the Detroit Tigers.

    The Diamondbacks tagged Mitre for five runs in just 3 2-3 innings April 27, and it was more of the same Tuesday night. Kata did most of the damage, going 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored in his first three at-bats, all against Mitre.

    He led off the third inning with a triple and scored on a groundout. Finley led off the fourth inning with a homer and Robert Hammock had an RBI single. Kata then made it 4-0 with a two-out double off the right-field wall.

    "He was swinging the bat well and getting on base a lot and making things happen," Brenly said. "When he does that, it sets up the rest of the offense."

    Kata had two chances to complete the cycle, but he grounded out in the sixth and struck out in the eighth.

    "I really didn't think about (the cycle) until my last at-bat. It wasn't like I'm going up there trying to hit home runs," Kata said. "A 'W' and three hits, no complaints."

    The Diamondbacks tacked on two more runs in the fifth inning off reliever Glendon Rusch. Rusch, who was making his first appearance for the Cubs, balked home a run and gave up an RBI single.

    Game notes

    Finley has 18 career homers against the Cubs. ... Hollandsworth is 5-for-10 as a pinch hitter. ... Greg Colbrunn is the last Diamondback to hit for the cycle, doing it at San Diego on Sept. 18, 2002. ... The first night game at Wrigley Field this year drew 38,942.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press