Reds 2, Cubs 1, 12 innings

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CHICAGO (AP)—Mark Prior pitched his best game of the season. Still, he couldn’t stop the Chicago Cubs’ final-week slump that has damaged their chances of making the postseason.

“It’s not from a lack of preparation. It’s not from a lack of trying. It just hasn’t worked out. I don’t have a philosophical quote about it. We lost,” Prior said Thursday after the loose and pressure-free Cincinnati Reds beat the Cubs in 12 innings for the second straight day.

Chicago fell for the fifth time in six games and dropped a game behind idle Houston for the NL wild card with three games left.

Javier Valentin hit a two-out double in the 12th to give Cincinnati a 2-1 victory, wasting Prior’s stellar nine-inning effort that saw him tie his career high with 16 strikeouts.

“I think we all know where we’re at right now,” Prior said. “I could care less about me personally. It’s not about me.”

It’s mainly about the Cubs’ offense—or lack of it.

Chicago had the bases loaded three times and didn’t score, and stranded 12 runners.

“It’s tough to lose two 12-inning games in a row, especially when we had opportunities to win the game,” a dejected Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.

“It’s tough to lose like this down the stretch.”

Adam Dunn, who earlier broke Bobby Bonds’ major league record for strikeouts in a single season when he fanned in his first two at-bats, singled in the 12th off Mike Remlinger (1-2). Dunn stole second and moved to third on a grounder before Valentin doubled to right off Kyle Farnsworth.

“We beat these guys. We won three out of four and, here in Chicago, that is tough,” Valentin said.

“Obviously it’s tough on them and the town, but we can’t come in here and just roll over,” said Cincinnati’s Austin Kearns, the hero in Wednesday’s 4-3 win, who came back and homered off Prior on Thursday.

Chicago loaded the bases for the third time in the 11th, but Juan Padilla (1-0) escaped by striking out Michael Barrett.

Pinch-hitter Jose Macias singled to start the bottom of the 12th and reached second on a one-out sacrifice by Nomar Garciaparra. Aramis Ramirez walked before Moises Alou flied to center to end the game and perhaps Chicago’s chances of returning to the postseason.

Garciaparra said he bunted with one out and Reds third baseman Felipe Lopez back because he was hoping for a hit or to at least move Macias into scoring position. But like most everything the Cubs tried, it didn’t work.

“Surprised? Absolutely surprised,” Garciaparra said of the Cubs’ precarious standing as they get ready for a closing three-game series with the Braves, while the Astros play at home against Colorado.

“We expected to be in a certain position,” he said. “We expected to just be looking at what we’re doing and not worrying about other boxscores.”

Prior had 13 strikeouts through the first six innings, fanning the side in the second and sixth innings. He was also part of major league history when he struck out Dunn in the second and fourth innings, giving the slugger a major league single-season record of 190 whiffs, one more than Bonds in 1970.

Prior struck out Dunn for a third time in the seventh but with two outs Kearns—who’d hurt the Cubs with a tying double and winning homer Wednesday— homered off the left-field foul pole to tie it at 1.

“One run should have been enough. It should have been enough. The stuff that I had today, I knew what I had,” Prior said.

“I don’t know what else to say.”

Sammy Sosa, just 3-for-22 in his previous six games, hit his 34th homer in the sixth—the 573rd of his career, tying Harmon Killebrew for seventh place on the career list.

But the Cubs didn’t get much else off Reds starter Aaron Harang, who allowed just four hits and the run in seven strong innings.

The Cubs had the bases loaded in the second and fourth innings but Harang retired Prior both times to end the inning, first on a strikeout and then on a hard fielder’s choice grounder to second.


The Cubs finish the season with three home games against the Braves. If they need a win Sunday to get in, they’ll turn to ex-Braves star Greg Maddux to beat his former team. … Dunn, with 101 RBIs, has the highest total of any player in the majors without a sacrifice fly. … Padilla’s win was his first in the majors. He entered with a 12.71 ERA. … The Reds won despite striking out a season-high 19 times.

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