CHICAGO -- Back at Wrigley Field for the first time since his forced exodus from the Cubs in 2006, Reds manager Dusty Baker was greeted with hearty boos each time he emerged from the dugout to make a pitching change. Not living in the past, his reception among the Cubs faithful barely registered a blip on Baker's radar. It's his current team's bout with big-hit-itis that's got him singing the Chicago blues. The Reds' fourth-straight loss on Tuesday was a 9-5 thumping that featured three Chicago home runs, two against ailing starter Aaron Harang. Ken Griffey Jr. countered with the 595th of his career, but Cincinnati is winless in its five series openers this season.
"I didn't feel like I had my best stuff," said Harang, who sniffled as if he had a cold. "I hard time locating early on. It was a little tough to get loose. It was one of those days when you go out there and just don't have it. I just tried to keep us in the game the best that I could and give us a chance to win." The Reds were in the game most of the way, until a disastrous seventh inning. Chicago had a 5-3 lead in the top of the seventh when Cincinnati had the bases-loaded with no outs. The rally yielded just one run. Jeff Keppinger, who already had two hits, bounced a ground ball up the middle that seemed destined to be hit No. 3. That was until second baseman Mike Fontenot made a nice diving stop behind the bag. Fontenot was able to make a toss to second for a force play as Paul Bako scored and made it a one-run game. Next batter Ken Griffey Jr. smoked a hard ground ball to first base. Derrek Lee snared it and completed the inning-ending 3-6-3 double play. "That one inning we still had a chance to get the victory if Fontenot hadn't made that play up the middle," Baker said. "That was a heck of a play. That was a game saver for them right there." There were numerous chances to get things rolling against Cubs starter Ryan Dempster (2-0), who issued five walks and threw 106 pitches in six-plus innings. Dempster allowed only one earned run on five hits. In the second inning, the Reds started with back-to-back walks and got a long Edwin Encarnacion RBI single off the left field wall. The other runners had to hold up because the ball was catchable. The Reds went down in order the rest of the inning. The Reds were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded six. Add in their totals from the recent three-game sweep by Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati is 7-for-42 (.167) with runners in scoring position over its last four games. "Lately that ball hasn't been bouncing our way," Baker said. "We were swinging the bats better tonight." The Cubs had a 2-1 lead in the third until Griffey hit a two-run homer to left-center field off of Dempster. It was the second long ball of the season for Griffey, and moved him within 14 of Sammy Sosa for fifth all-time. A 19 mph wind, gusting up to 26 mph, made conditions nippy. As a former Cubs skipper, Baker knew what that meant. "The first thing you do when you get here: check the flags," he said. Those flags were stiffly blowing out of Wrigley. It was not a good time for Harang not to have his best stuff and leave pitches up. In the second inning, Mark DeRosa hit a 3-1 pitch for a two-run homer to left field. In the Cubs' fifth, Fontenot hit a one-out double and a Ryan Theriot walked before Lee launched a 1-0 hanging slider for three-run homer to left-center field and 5-3 advantage. Chicago was ahead for good. "Normally I'll make a mistake when there's not a runner on base," Harang said. "It doesn't hurt me as bad. I had to walk the hitter just before Lee comes up. That hurt in that inning especially." Harang (1-2) gave up five earned runs and eight hits over six innings with two walks and six strikeouts. "I could tell something was up," Baker said. "He didn't say anything. I asked him if he was all right but he just said he felt lousy. You know Aaron isn't going to complain about much or not alibi or say anything. He wouldn't have said anything if I didn't ask him." It was an off-night for the Reds bullpen, which gave up four runs among Jared Burton, Jeremy Affeldt and Todd Coffey. It was Coffey who allowed Theriot's two-run homer in the eighth. Joey Votto hit his first homer of the season for the Reds in the ninth but the game was already out of reach at that point. "We scored more than we have been scoring," said Baker, whose club had scored four runs in the previous three games combined. "But we just couldn't keep them in the ballpark."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.