Stubbs’ grand slam lifts Reds over Cubs

Published 12:08 am Sunday, April 11, 2010

CINCINNATI — Drew Stubbs figured the pitch would be somewhere in the strike zone. His guess was right on, and so was his timing.

Stubbs hit his first career grand slam off Esmailin Caridad in the eighth inning, rallying the Cincinnati Reds to a 5-4 victory Friday night that left the Chicago Cubs with a sense that they’d let yet another one get away.

The Reds managed only three hits in the first seven innings, then took advantage of Caridad (0-1), who walked only one batter during 14 spring training appearances. Under much more pressure in a game that mattered, the right-hander quickly got himself in trouble.

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Caridad walked the first two batters, and Chris Dickerson bunted for a single that loaded the bases and brought up Stubbs.

“I couldn’t throw a strike,” Caridad said. “I don’t know why.”

Stubbs knew that Caridad wouldn’t want to walk him, too, so he expected a strike and got it on the second pitch.

“He was struggling, so I figured he’d try to get ahead of me and come right at me,” Stubbs said. “And he left it out over the plate.”

Stubbs flipped his bat away as he left the batter’s box, knowing that nobody was going to catch the ball. It landed deep in the Reds’ bullpen area for a 5-3 lead.

“It was one of those that feels so good, there’s no question about it,” Stubbs said.

It was the second time that Chicago’s bullpen failed to hold a late lead. On Wednesday, Chipper Jones hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning off John Grabow for a 3-2 Atlanta win.

“Remember what I said in spring training?” manager Lou Piniella said. “Everything was fine when we were in afternoon, single-deck stadiums. Now all of a sudden, it gets a little different, and we’ll have to see. Well, we haven’t seen what we’d like to see, let’s put it that way.”

The Cubs fell to 1-3 because of the two bullpen breakdowns and a lineup that has failed to hit consistently.

“I hope those games we’ve lost we won’t need in September,” said Alfonso Soriano, who was 0 for 5.

Micah Owings (1-0) got the victory with three innings in relief of Homer Bailey. Francisco Cordero converted his first save chance of the season, barely holding the lead.

Derrek Lee hit a solo homer that cut it to 5-4. Chicago loaded the bases with two outs on Kosuke Fukudome’s single, third baseman Scott Rolen’s fielding error and Mike Fontenot’s infield single, his fourth of the game. Pinch-hitter Chad Tracy hit a check-swing grounder back to Cordero for the final out.

Stubbs, who also tripled, has been one of the Reds’ few consistent hitters during the opening week. His first homer of the season broke open a game between two teams struggling to hit.

Right-hander Carlos Silva held the Reds to one run in six innings — Stubbs tripled to open the first, then scored on Orlando Cabrera’s sacrifice fly. Silva settled in on a chilly, 54-degree evening, preventing the Reds from rallying until he was out of the game. He left when his shoulder began to stiffen.

Chicago failed to make the most out of a ragged start by Homer Bailey, who went deep in counts and lasted only five innings. The 23-year-old Bailey was trying to extend his sensational closing stretch of 2009, when he had a 1.70 ERA in his last nine starts — the best in the majors during that span. A little wildness got in the way.

Bailey gave up seven singles in five innings, but also walked two batters, hit two and committed a balk. He needed 106 pitches to get that far, the best sign of how much he struggled.

Aramis Ramirez hit a sacrifice fly, and Xavier Nady and Lee had run-scoring singles off Bailey.

The Reds’ starting lineup featured three first-round draft picks: Bailey (2004), right fielder Jay Bruce (2005) and Stubbs (2006). Right-hander Mike Leake, the Reds’ top pick last year, will make his debut on Sunday.

NOTES: Nady started in RF as Piniella continued to give his reserves some playing time, looking to spark the offense. … One of the Reds’ mascots walked around the field pregame with a cardboard sign that read, “Got Goat?” a reference to the Cubs’ mythical curse from 1945. … Chicago’s Carlos Zambrano is 1-5 in seven career starts against Cincinnati’s Aaron Harang. They go head-to-head again on Saturday.