Playing the final game without their star slugger, Alou looks to continue his offensive surge when the Chicago Cubs take on the Cincinnati in the second game of their four-game series at Great American Ball Park.
Alou and Eric Karros hit consecutive solo homers in the sixth inning Monday, leading the Cubs to a 4-3 victory. The homers erased a 3-2 deficit as Chicago won for the sixth time in nine games.
The Cubs are 3-3 without Sosa, who has one game left on his suspension for using a corked bat. Sosa was suspended seven games after getting nabbed for the violation in Chicago’s 3-2 win over Tampa Bay on June 3.
Sosa, who hit his 500th homer at the Reds’ new ballpark on April 4, took batting practice before Monday’s contest and hit two shots that landed on the roof of the building beyond center field.
Though Alou can’t match Sosa’s power, he has been the Cubs’ offensive leader during Sosa’s absence. The left fielder is batting .400 (12-for-30) over his last eight games with two homers and nine RBIs.
The Reds have lost two straight after a four-game win streak and got a scare on Karros’ drive that landed just beyond the fence in center.
Ken Griffey Jr., who dislocated his shoulder on April 5, tried to rob the homer but missed the ball while smacking his right arm on the outfield wall.
It was the hardest blow Griffey has taken since his injury, which he sustained while diving for a fly ball in the outfield against the Cubs and missed 5 1/2 weeks.
Griffey cradled the arm briefly after hitting the wall, then grabbed his wrist and stretched the arm.
However, manager Bob Boone said his center fielder is fine.
“He didn’t hurt it,” Boone said, “but he could feel it in his shoulder.”
STANDINGS: Cubs - 1st place, NL Central. Reds - 4th place, 4 GB, NL Central.
CUBS PROBABLE STARTER: Carlos Zambrano (5-6, 3.31 ERA). Zambrano is 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA over his last three starts and hasn’t won since a 7-3 victory over Houston on May 25. The 22-year-old right-hander is coming off his worst start of the season, allowing four runs—three earned—and five hits over two innings of Thursday’s 6-1 loss to Baltimore. Zambrano is 3-1 with a 0.57 ERA in eight career appearances, including four starts, against the Reds.
REDS PROBABLE STARTER: Ryan Dempster (2-4, 7.06 ERA). Dempster earned his first win since April 8 with Thursday’s 2-1 triumph over Tampa Bay. The 26-year-old right-hander, who made two starts since a stint on the 15-day disabled list, yielded just one unearned run and four hits over 7 1-3 innings against the Devil Rays, striking out five and walking two. In nine career starts against the Cubs, Dempster is 2-5 with a 4.56 ERA and one complete game.
SEASON SERIES: Cubs, 5-3.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cubs - OF Alou is batting .556 with two doubles and two homers in nine career at-bats against RHP Dempster. … OF Patterson is hitting .328 (22-for-67) with two homers, four triples and six RBIs over his last 16 games. … The Cubs are 17-11 in games decided by two or fewer runs after opening the season 2-5 in those games. Reds - The Reds lead the majors with 67 errors and rank last in the majors with a .974 fielding percentage. … OF Dunn has 13 homers among his last 18 hits, but has just eight hits over his last 64 at-bats (.125). … INF Boone won NL player of the week honors Monday for the second time this season. The last Reds player to win it twice was Eric Davis in 1987.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cubs - 20-15 on the road; Reds - 19-18 at home.
INJURIES: Cubs - INF Hee Seop Choi (concussion), 15-day DL; LHP Will Ohman (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Dave Veres (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Scott Chiasson (elbow), 60-day DL. Reds - INF Ryan Freel (hamstring), 15-day DL; RHP John Riedling (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Luke Prokopec (elbow), 60-day DL.