New closer Dempster gives up 9th-inning RBI single

CHICAGO (AP) -- Doug Mientkiewicz didn't feel much like celebrating after his home run.

Mientkiewicz hit a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning off the recently demoted LaTroy Hawkins, leading the New York Mets to a 7-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Monday in a game that was delayed twice by rain.

Mientkiewicz and Hawkins were teammates on the Minnesota Twins

from 1998-2003.

"I felt almost bad for LaTroy -- one of the best teammates I ever had," Mientkiewicz said. "I know he's scuffling and getting a raw deal. It's the first time I hit a home run and felt guilty about it."

Mientkiewicz's one-out homer made a winner of Mike DeJean (2-1) and gave the Mets their fifth win in six games. He added an RBI single in the ninth off Ryan Dempster, who replaced Hawkins as the Cubs' closer.

"We moved him to the setup role and he just made a bad pitch on his former teammate, Mientkiewicz, probably in the wrong location," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "I don't know what to say."

Hawkins (1-4) lost for the third time in his last three appearances. After Hawkins suffered back-to-back losses on Thursday and Friday, Baker decided Dempster would be the closer, at least until Joe Borowski returns from the disabled list.

Hawkins flourished in the setup role in Minnesota and he said his recent failures won't affect his outlook on his job, wherever he pitches.

"I'm going to be the same regardless," Hawkins said. "Whether I go out there and give it up or I don't, I'll be the same. You can't get too high, can't get too low."

Mientkiewicz already has six home runs, as many as he had all of last season.

"We didn't expect him to hit this many home runs," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "He's got his share so far. He's got some big ones for us."

With a pitching staff racked by injuries and inconsistency, the Cubs are looking for some kind of aid.

"We need some help. [General manager Jim Hendry] is searching big-time for some help," Baker said. "Nobody's giving you a lot of help right now."

Dempster gave up four hits and struck out two in his first relief appearance of the year. Mike Piazza added an RBI single off him in the ninth.

"They found the holes off Demp," Baker said. "He threw the ball pretty good."

Trailing 4-0 in the bottom of the sixth, the Cubs tied it on Michael Barrett's three-run homer. Jeromy Burnitz added an RBI single.

Piazza hit his 384th homer, tying him for 48th all-time with Harold Baines, in the first inning of a game that was delayed twice for a total of 1 hour, 34 minutes. Piazza has four home runs and 10 RBI in his last four games.

"I'm having some good at-bats and then a couple of bad ones," he said. "Fortunately, I've been coming up though with guys on."

After a 20-minute delay in the bottom of the first, Mets second baseman Kaz Matsui hit a solo homer in the top of the second. Play was halted again after he ran the bases, this time for 1:14.

The Mets scored three times in the first against Jon Leicester, who was called up from Triple-A Iowa to take Dempster's spot in the rotation.

Carlos Beltran started the two-out rally with an infield single and Cliff Floyd followed with a single before Piazza hit his sixth homer of the season.

Leicester was pulled after three innings. He gave up four runs and five hits, including two homers.

"I wanted to give this a couple good innings, a couple times through the order," Leicester said. "Give us a chance to put some runs on the board and get a 'W.'"

Jeromy Burnitz kept the game tied at 4 in the seventh when he robbed Floyd of a hit with a leaping catch in right with men on second and third.Game notes
A day after his 18-game hitting streak was snapped, Derrek Lee singled in the first inning ... Aramis Ramirez has a six-game hitting streak ... The Cubs optioned Roberto Novoa to Triple-A Iowa to make room for Leicester. ... Randolph said Tuesday's starter, Kris Benson, will be allowed to throw a normal amount of pitches after throwing 88 in 4 2/3 innings in his first start of the year on May 5. ... Marlon Anderson had his major league-leading 10th pinch-hit in the eighth.