Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Cubs 5, Reds 3


Weak offense just one problem in sloppy loss

By Chris Haft
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        CHICAGO — It wasn't the best of nights for Pokey Reese. Or Jim Brower. Or Michael Tucker. But their misadventures might not have mattered had the Reds hit in the clutch Tuesday.

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Michael Tucker scores past Todd Hundley in the first inning.
(AP photos)
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        Instead, Cincinnati remained offensively limp, a malady that has plagued them for nearly the entire month. The Reds delivered just two hits in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position, helping the Chicago Cubs capture the opener of a three-game series, 5-3, at Wrigley Field.

        Lowlights included Sean Casey being stranded at second base after he lined a first-inning RBI double with one out; pinch hitter Bill Selby's luckless line drive to first base in the fifth inning with runners on the corners, resulting in a double play; and the sixth inning, when Cincinnati parlayed two hits, two walks, a wild pitch and a stolen base into just two runs.

        Winning two of three games in Houston stimulated the Reds' hopes but not their bats. Cincinnati mustered four hits, exceeding its season low by one. The Reds endured two stretches of helplessness in which 11 batters in a row were retired — first by Cubs starter Julian Tavarez after Casey's first-inning hit, then by three Cubs relievers after Ruben Rivera's RBI single in the sixth that tied the score, 3-3.

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Ricky Gutierrez slides home past Jason LaRue in the third inning.
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        “We made (Tavarez) look a lot better than he was, I thought,” Reds manager Bob Boone said. “I thought he hung a bunch of breaking balls. We didn't hit a ball hard other than Casey's the first four innings. It's easy for me to say, standing in the dugout. But you've got to have better at-bats than that or you're going to lose a lot of games.”

        The Reds already have proven that, having averaged 3.1 runs in their last 16 games to fall to 19-25.

        Of course, it was a bad night for Cincinnati overall, as shown by the following examples:

        • Reese, the two-time Gold Glove second baseman, endured a rough game at his new spot, shortstop. He committed an error on a ground ball and misplayed Todd Dunwoody's fourth-inning pop-up into an RBI double.

        “Pokey called for the ball; Ruben (center fielder Rivera) didn't see it and it drifted away,” Boone said.

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Jim Brower reacts to his bases-loaded balk.
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        • Brower balked home Chicago's go-ahead run with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth inning.

        “My hand moved as I was stepping off (the pitching rubber). I guess it was too simultaneous for him,” Brower said, referring to home-plate umpire Laz Diaz. “I didn't see it on the videotape. But I have to go with his call.”

        • Tucker, battling swirling winds, angled to his right for Todd Hundley's fly ball to left and watched as it fell several feet to his left for a seventh-inning leadoff double. That helped the Cubs score an insurance run. The inning ended with reliever John Riedling escaping a second-and-third, two-out jam by inducing a fly ball to Tucker. But Tucker frantically fired the ball back to the infield, indicating that he thought only two were out (the scoreboard was one out behind).

        Regarding the pop-ups that Reese and Tucker missed, Boone gave them a break — sort of. But he defi nitely didn't appreciate seeing double, so to speak.

        “Fly balls here can be really tough. You have to take that into account a little bit,” Boone said. “But not to catch two pop-ups is ridiculous.”

        A 41-minute rain delay halted play after four innings and ended Brian Reith's evening. Reith, making his second major-league start, yielded Miguel Cairo's leadoff homer — the fifth allowed by Reds pitchers this year — but performed capably afterward. The right-hander, who no-hit Arizona for 5 2/3 innings in his debut last Wednesday, walked only one and struck out five while being charged with three runs and five hits.

        “He made a couple of mistakes on breaking pitches, as young kids will,” Boone said of Reith, who expected to have more than two dozen friends and relatives in the stands from Fort Wayne, Ind. “But he actually threw pretty well.”

        Reds pitchers have surrendered homers in 12 consecutive games, one short of the franchise record established June 29-July 10, 1955.

       



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