Reds 6, Cubs 5

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CINCINNATI (AP)—Now that the St. Louis Cardinals are National League Central champions, the Chicago Cubs are focused on the wild card.

The Cubs’ 6-5 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night assured the Cardinals the division title and denied Chicago a chance to take over the lead in the NL wild-card race.

“That hurts even more,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of the Cubs’ inability to capitalize on San Francisco’s loss to San Diego earlier. “But we’ll have another opportunity tomorrow.”

The Giants lost 5-1 to the Padres but maintained their half-game lead over the Cubs. Houston beat Milwaukee 4-3 to move a game back of San Francisco.

Wily Mo Pena hit two home runs to offset a pair by Moises Alou, and preserved the lead in the eighth by throwing out Mark Grudzielanek trying to score from second on a single.

“I don’t think he had a good jump from second,” Baker said. “We were surprised it was that close. It was a great throw by Pena. He kept it low and got a good hop.”

Pena was afraid the throw might have been too low.

“I didn’t really have a good grip,” he said. “I tried to keep it so low I almost hit the second baseman. He had to duck.”

The Reds scored five runs in the sixth to back Aaron Harang (9-9). Harang gave up six hits, walked three and struck out six in six innings.

Danny Graves pitched 1 2-3 innings for his 41st save in 50 chances as the Reds stopped their three-game losing skid.

Greg Maddux (14-10) was bidding for his 17th straight 15-win season. In six innings, he allowed nine hits, walked none and struck out six.

“I felt fine. I just got hit,” Maddux said. “I left some changeups up. I wish I knew why, but I don’t.”

Alou led off the second with a home run and it looked like that would be enough for Maddux until Pena tied it at 1 in the fifth with his first homer, an estimated 454-foot shot off the batter’s eye in center field.

“I threw some changeups that didn’t sink, and they didn’t miss them,” Maddux said.

Both homers by Pena came on changeups, Maddux said. Pena’s second homer was estimated at 422 feet.

Aramis Ramirez led off the sixth with a walk, Alou followed with his 37th homer, and two consecutive singles and a wild pitch by Harang made it 4-1 Chicago.

In the bottom half, Ryan Freel doubled and scored on Sean Casey’s double, and D’Angelo Jimenez’s two-out homer, his 11th, tied it at 4. Austin Kearns singled, and Pena’s 26th homer made it 6-4.

Sammy Sosa’s 33rd homer, off Joe Valentine, brought Chicago to 6-5 in the eighth.

Pena saved a run from scoring when he threw out Grudzielanek, who was trying to score from second on a single to center by pinch-hitter Ben Grieve.

“These games really do mean something,” Casey said. “It’s our role to be the spoiler, and that’s what we need to do.”


John Riedling relieved Harang in the seventh and pitched to just one batter. He tumbled across the first-base foul line trying to field a bunt by Corey Patterson and was helped from the field. A preliminary examination showed a sprained left knee. … Reds bench coach Jerry Narron was ejected in the third inning by home plate umpire Tim Welke. … Reds SS Barry Larkin made his first start since Monday. … The game was the 10th sellout of the season in Great American Ball Park. … The Reds paid tribute to Joe Nuxhall’s 60-year association with the team before the game and donated a total of $50,000 to education funds in Nuxhall’s name. Nuxhall pitched two-thirds of an inning in relief against the St. Louis Cardinals in June 1944, making him the youngest player in the modern era.

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