Reds end 5-game skid

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 18, 2008

The Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — Hey, man — as Dusty Baker likes to say — the Reds were relieved to get out of Wrigley Field with a victory and end a five-game losing streak.

‘‘It’s been a tough five days. We needed this game badly,’’ Baker said Thursday after Joey Votto and Ken Griffey Jr. led Cincinnati over the Chicago Cubs 9-2.

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Baker’s return to Chicago, where he managed the Cubs from 2003-06, started with two losses, right after the Reds had been swept three games in Pittsburgh.

‘‘We didn’t want to have back-to-back sweeps. Five in a row felt like it was a month,’’ Baker said.

Votto doubled with the bases loaded, homered, drove in five runs and made a nice defensive play, while Griffey hit his 596th career homer.

‘‘The most important thing is the win. The home run is irrelevant. I hit one the other day and what happened? We lost,’’ said Griffey, who also homered in Tuesday’s series opener.

He’s not even thinking about No. 600 or where he might hit it. But would he like to do it in Cincinnati?

‘‘Why is that such a big deal? Do you think I will?’’ he said. ‘‘100 was at home, 200 was in Boston, 300 was in Cleveland, 400 was in Colorado and 500 was St. Louis. What do you think the odds are going to be?’’

Edinson Volquez (2-0) gave up four hits and a run in five innings. In three starts now, he’s allowed only 12 hits and has an ERA of 1.17.

‘‘I feel more comfortable now. I have more confidence, too,’’ said Volquez, who joined the Reds in a trade from Texas in the offseason. ‘‘I’m getting older and I’m learning from the last two years. I’m getting pretty comfortable.’’

Ted Lilly (0-3) remained winless in four starts after going 15-8 last season. He was tagged for six hits and five runs in six innings.

‘‘I’m just losing patience at this point,’’ Lilly said. ‘‘I want to go out there and give us a solid outing and give us a chance to win. I feel I owe that to my teammates.’’

Lilly gave up just one hit through the first three innings. But he struggled with his control in the fourth as two walks and a single loaded the bases. Votto then doubled to right-center to clear the bases and make it 3-1.

Votto hit his second homer of the season in the sixth, a two-run shot. He connected an inning after making a nice play at first base, stretching toward the line to snag Mike Fontenot’s liner with runners at second and third to end the threat.

‘‘I’m glad I came through in that situation early in the game,’’ Votto said. ‘‘I think that leaving here without getting swept is really important.’’

Henry Blanco’s RBI infield single in the sixth cut it to 6-2.

But in the fourth after the Cubs put the first two runners on, Blanco and third base coach Mike Quade had a miscommunication. There was no bunt sign on, but Blanco — the No. 8 hitter — tried to bunt with the weak-hitting Lilly on-deck. He ended up bunting foul on a third strike and it doused the inning.

‘‘I don’t think he would have bunted with two strikes or squared around with no strikes with the pitcher coming up next,’’ manager Lou Piniella said. ‘‘Behind in the score the way we were, it was just a mixup. Nothing more, nothing less.’’

The Cubs played sloppy ball in the seventh as shortstop Ryan Theriot couldn’t handle Norris Hopper’s grounder for an error. Ryan Freel bunted, but reliever Jon Lieber had to hold the ball because Chicago second baseman Fontenot failed to cover first in time, giving Freel an infield single.

Griffey then launched a three-run homer to center field, his third of the season. Lieber became the 380th pitcher to surrender a homer to the 38-year-old Reds star, who is sixth on the all-time list.

Freel added an RBI single in the eighth.

The Cubs loaded the bases in the second on two singles and a walk. With two outs, Lilly, a career .111 hitter, drew a walk on a 3-1 pitch from Volquez to make it 1-0.

Notes: Votto matched his career high in RBIs. He also had five against the Cubs last September. … Reds cleanup hitter Brandon Phillips, hitless in his previous 10 at-bats, got the day off to rest. … Paul Bako, another former Cub, extended his hitting streak to a career-high nine games. … Reed Johnson was 4-for-4 for the Cubs. With Alfonso Soriano on the DL, the Cubs again started Mark DeRosa in left with Fontenot leading off. Johnson started in center as the Cubs continue to work on hitting with young outfielder Felix Pie, who is batting .154.