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Reds done in early as skid continues

Reds done in early, skid continues

CHICAGO -- Wednesday afternoon during batting practice at windy Wrigley Field, eyes looked skyward and marveled at a small aircraft towing a rather large advertising sign.

The wind was blowing hard out of Wrigley, but the plane flew right into the stiff breeze and seemed to be halted in midair. At times, it even appeared to be going backwards.

Sort of like the Reds and Josh Fogg.

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A 12-3 blowout loss to the Cubs on Wednesday evening was the latest indication that Cincinnati hasn't been able to straighten up and fly right. After starting this 10-day, nine-game road trip by winning two of three at Milwaukee, the Reds have lost five in a row.

Fogg was roughed up for nine earned runs and seven hits over two-plus innings with two walks and three strikeouts. In three starts, he is now 1-2 with a 13.09 ERA (16 earned runs over 11 innings). Manager Dusty Baker didn't rule out making a change and getting reinforcements.

"We might," Baker said succinctly.

A four-run Cubs first inning and a six-run third did most of the damage against the Reds.

"We didn't have much of a chance, did we? Right from the beginning," Baker said.

It turned out that Fogg didn't have a good pregame bullpen session, and it clearly carried over into the game. His location was off all night.

"Today I didn't have any clue where the ball was going," Fogg said. "I left too many pitches up in the strike zone for a team that's swinging the bats the way they are."

Chicago capitalized on situations that Cincinnati has often squandered on this road trip -- hitting with the bases loaded.

With one out in the first, Fogg hit Aramis Ramirez with a pitch and rendered the bases full. Next was Kosuke Fukudome, who laced a double down the right-field line that scored two. Mark DeRosa followed with a two-run double to left field for a 4-0 Cubs lead.

Fogg worked a 1-2-3 second inning but couldn't notch an out in the third. Derrek Lee led off with a home run to left-center field. The bases were soon loaded again when Geovany Soto smoked a two-run double to left field that chased Fogg from the game with a 7-1 deficit.

"I didn't want to leave him out there that long, but I didn't want to go to my bullpen that early, either," Baker said.

Reliever Mike Lincoln let two inherited runners score. Reed Johnson's sacrifice fly and a Carlos Zambrano RBI single made it 9-1. The nine runs allowed tied a career high for Fogg. His other two nine-run beatings also came against the Cubs.

Zambrano (2-1) coasted through a seven-inning performance, in which he allowed two runs and eight hits with one walk and five strikeouts. He also tied a career high with three hits.

In Fogg's three starts for the Reds, two have been lousy. On April 4, vs. the Phillies, he was dotted for six earned runs over four innings. The second start was a well-pitched five innings in a win over the Brewers.

The lack of clutch hitting has crippled the club during the losses, but quality pitching seems to have taken a sabbatical, too. That's especially the case in their last three defeats, where the Reds have been outscored, 30-9. Cincinnati (6-9) has fallen into a last-place tie with the Astros in the National League Central.

There are some decent options at Triple-A Louisville should the Reds desire a move.

Coming off a forearm injury, Matt Belisle has had three strong rehab starts and could be ready to come off of the disabled list. Homer Bailey has a 1.42 ERA with three walks and 10 strikeouts through three starts. Justin Lehr has a 0.60 ERA after two starts for the Bats. Lehr has given up just one walk compared to 10 strikeouts.

Lincoln, Jeremy Affeldt, David Weathers, Kent Mercker and Francisco Cordero had to piece together the final six innings after Fogg's departure. It wasn't a good scenario for the pitching staff, which is just two games into a streak of 16 straight games without a day off.

"That's a lot of days in a row. You hate when that happens early in the streak because it messes up the bullpen," Baker said. "We have another big game [Thursday], early. The guys that pitched today don't have much time to recuperate."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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