Breathing Room

Published 12:00 pm Monday, August 30, 2010

CINCINNATI — A tough-hop throwing error helped the Cincinnati Reds get some serious separation from the rest of the NL Central.

Kosuke Fukudome’s homer tied it in the top of the eighth, but his throw skipped away in the bottom half of the inning and helped Cincinnati rally for a 7-5 victory Sunday that completed the Reds’ season-long domination of the Chicago Cubs.

The Reds took a five-game lead in the NL Central — their biggest edge since early in the 2002 season — when second-place St. Louis lost to Washington 4-2 later Sunday.

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“Let’s try to make it six and get as many as we can,” manager Dusty Baker said. “We’re playing the way we can. Let’s try to get greedy.”

Since they got swept by the Cardinals at Great American Ball Park earlier this month, the Reds have won 11 of 15 and taken control of the division. Cincinnati goes to St. Louis for the last three games in their series next weekend.

The Reds have stayed in contention all season by beating the struggling teams. Cincinnati won 12 of its 16 games against Chicago this season, its best showing since going 12-5 against the Cubs in 2002.

This one turned on one inning.

Fukudome’s two-run homer off Arthur Rhodes tied it at 5. His throw from right field skipped into a photographers’ booth behind third base in the bottom of the inning, letting in the go-ahead run off Sean Marshall (6-5).

Logan Ondrusek (4-0) stopped the Cubs’ rally in the eighth. Francisco Cordero pitched the ninth for his 35th save in 41 chances, including 11 in a row.

The Reds matched their season high at 20 games over .500 (75-55). They haven’t been 21 games over since 1999, the last time they were in playoff contention. Cincinnati lost a one-game playoff to the New York Mets for the NL wild card that year.

Jay Bruce hit a solo homer, his fourth of the series, off rookie starter Casey Coleman, who gave up eight hits in six innings, keeping himself under constant pressure.

“Being the kind of pitcher I am, I’m going to have days like that,” Coleman said. “I rely on movement and balls hit into play.”

Cincinnati’s Joey Votto extended his hitting streak to eight games. Drew Stubbs batted leadoff, had three hits and scored three times.

“That’s how it’s been this year,” Stubbs said. “Obviously, Votto and the All-Star guys have done great things, but everybody in the lineup has been contributing.”

The Reds started their third straight game without All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips, who has a bruised right hand that was hit by a pitch on Wednesday. He was a pinch-runner in the eighth.

Chris Heisey started the winning rally with a single, and headed for third on Ramon Hernandez’s single to right. He was awarded home on Fukudome’s throw, which bounced past third baseman Aramis Ramirez.

“He thinks he’s got a shot — the guy’s going from first to third,” manager Mike Quade said. “To me, that’s baseball. It’s not like he fired it into the first row. The one thing about it: It was the dreaded in-between hop.”

The Reds lead the league at going from first to third on a single, and Heisey didn’t hesitate when he had a chance to do it in the eighth.

“That’s just been the mentality the whole season,” Heisey said. “Since spring training, it’s been driven into us. They’ve emphasized it. It puts pressure on the defense, especially if they’re making a long throw.”

Pinch-hitter Jonny Gomes followed with a run-scoring infield single.

Reds rookie starter Travis Wood had a second straight subpar showing. The left-hander gave up a career-high seven runs in a 16-5 loss at San Francisco on Tuesday, and was constantly in trouble against the Cubs. Chicago had 10 hits and three walks in five innings, but managed only three runs.

NOTES: The Cubs are 4-2 under Quade, who took over when Lou Piniella retired last Sunday. … The Cubs return to Wrigley Field for a for a nine-game homestand. They’ll honor new Hall of Famer Andre Dawson in a pregame ceremony on Monday. … Baker said Phillips’ hand is getting better each day, but he’s still having trouble holding a bat. “He’s still not there yet,” Baker said. “The swelling’s going down.” … The 10 hits were the most allowed this season by Wood.