Reds' homers not enough in loss

Reds' homers not enough in loss

CHICAGO -- Following Thursday's game at Wrigley Field, a wayward Cubs fan wandered into an unmarked side door and achieved entry into the Reds' clubhouse.

"Isn't this the bathroom?" the fan asked before turning to a clubhouse worker. "Hey, has anyone ever told you that you look like Geovany Soto?"

It certainly wasn't the bathroom, but the Reds saw a prime opportunity to win a series vs. a first-place team swirl the drain. A 3-2 loss to Chicago meant Cincinnati has dropped two of three and 19 of the last 25 games.

What loomed largest was the Reds' lack of success in scoring chances. They were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position in the game, 0-for-15 in the series.

"We did that? Wow," manager Dusty Baker said. "Yeah, that's tough

"It's not like we didn't have the chances," said rookie right fielder Jay Bruce, who notched Cincinnati's first run with a sixth-inning solo homer off Carlos Zambrano. "The big thing in the Major Leagues, and it's something I'm learning -- you have to capitalize on the chances you have. The more we start doing that, the better off we're going to be."

Zambrano (13-5) gave up one earned run and six hits with four walks and four strikeouts to end his three-start winless skid. The Reds made the right-hander work in the early innings but couldn't find a way to score. Chris Dickerson started the game with a four-pitch walk and, following a groundout and a passed ball, stood on third base with one out. But Bruce flied to right field and Brandon Phillips grounded out.

"I think about the chances we had and I had," Bruce said. "In the first inning, there was a runner on third base, less than two outs, you have to get him in. That changes the whole game right there."

Reds starter Josh Fogg (2-6) lost his third straight start and was kept on a short leash with the mismatch against the ace Zambrano. Fogg had three earned runs and four hits allowed, but he was lifted after four innings.

Chicago scored one run in each of the first three innings to take a 3-0 lead.

"[Fogg] wasn't throwing the ball that badly," Baker said. "It's just that when you give Zambrano an early lead like that, he knows what to do with it. We just tried to keep the game where it was."

In the first inning following Alfonso Soriano's leadoff four-pitch walk and Ryan Theriot's single, Derrek Lee hit into a 6-4-3 double play that scored Soriano for a 1-0 Cubs lead. There was one out in the bottom of the second when Mark DeRosa hit Fogg's first pitch to the left-field bleachers. Zambrano's bat provided a more devastating blow when his third-inning leadoff homer to right field made it 3-0. It was Zambrano's fourth homer of the season.

"Well, it's not my choice," said Fogg of his early removal. "It's one of those things I can't control. That's all that needs to be said.

"Other than two pitches -- the one to Zambrano and the one to DeRosa -- I felt like I commanded the ball today. I threw a majority of strikes, except when I walked Soriano to lead off the game. My stuff felt great today."

A solo homer by Joey Votto in the eighth off Carlos Marmol made it a one-run game, but the Reds went down in order in the ninth vs. Cubs closer Kerry Wood.

Thursday's game was a reason that the scorecard from Wednesday's 2-1 win should be bronzed. The Reds are just 2-40 this season when they score three runs or fewer in a game.

For the series, Cincinnati (56-72) notched only four runs and batted .151 (14-for-93). Still, the club managed to come within one run of being the first team to take a series from the Cubs (78-49) in a month.

"That says a lot right there," Bruce said. "Obviously, this a lot different team now that [Ken] Griffey and [Adam] Dunn are gone. But we still have a chance to produce runs and win games like anyone else. We definitely can't use that as an excuse, because we had the chances. We have people that are capable of doing things to score runs and produce runs. We just have to learn. It's a work in progress, but we're still going to win our fair share of games."

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