Reds 5, Cubs 4
Freel threw out the potential go-ahead run at home in the top of the ninth and Encarnacion, who had homered earlier, drove in Norris Hopper with a game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Reds a 5-4 win over the Chicago Cubs on Friday night.
The walkoff win was the second in two nights and third of the week for the Reds, who improved to 4-1 on their current homestand. They have won eight of their last nine at Great American Ball Park.
“I’d rather some laughers,” said manager Pete Mackanin, who watched closer David Weathers give up five hits and two runs to blow a 4-2 lead in the ninth. “What I like about our guys is, after (Chicago) tied the game, they didn’t panic.”
Mark DeRosa and Jason Kendall had run-scoring singles off Weathers (2-3), and the Cubs seemed ready to take the lead when pinch-hitter Mike Fontenot lofted a bloop single to short center with Jacque Jones on second base and one out. Freel barehanded the ball and fired it to catcher David Ross, who caught it and held on for the out as Jones ran into him.
“It was perfect,” said Ross, who dislocated his right pinky on Wednesday and had it put back in place that same night. “If it was on the plate, I would’ve had a tough time blocking it, but it took me up the line and right into the runner. I’m a little bigger than he is. I’m just a fat guy trying to get in the way.”
“When I saw he had it, I had to try to jar it loose,” Jones said.
After Weathers got the third out, Hopper led off the bottom of the ninth against Bobby Howry (5-6) with a single to right. Pinch-hitter Juan Castro sacrificed Hopper to second, and Encarnacion singled between diving third baseman Aramis Ramirez and the bag for the win.
“It was good to see Edwin come up big,” Mackanin said. “He’s been feeling bad about himself. I’ve never seen anyone so happy.”
Freel and Encarnacion both left the clubhouse before the media arrived.
The Cubs, who entered Friday with the major leagues’ best record (31-16) since June 3, have lost consecutive games for the second time in less than a week. Chicago dropped two straight at Arizona last weekend.
Pitching through a middle-innings drizzle, Reds starter Bronson Arroyo allowed two unearned runs and one walk while striking out five in 7 2-3 innings. He also hit a batter.
Beginning with Derrek Lee’s double-play ball that ended the second inning, Arroyo retired 12 consecutive batters before DeRosa’s two-out single to left in the seventh.
“He threw a lot of breaking balls,” Chicago manager Lou Piniella said. “He’s a crafty guy. He knows how to pitch.”
Ryan Theriot’s hit to right with one out in the first inning skidded through Ken Griffey Jr.’s legs for a two-base error, allowing Theriot to reach third. He scored on Lee’s sacrifice fly to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
Encarnacion gave Cincinnati a 2-1 lead in the fourth with his seventh home run of the season and first in 49 at-bats since July 7. The 391-foot blast down the line reached the second deck in left field.
Hill finished with eight strikeouts, the most since tying his career high with 11 in Chicago’s 2-1 win at Atlanta on June 7. He gave up six hits and three walks in five innings while falling to 1-3 over his last eight starts.
Keppinger gave Arroyo some breathing room with his sixth-inning double to left, which drove in Ross from second. Freel scored from first when the ball got away from Alfonso Soriano for an error.
The Cubs optioned RHP Billy Petrick and C-IF Jake Fox to Triple-A Iowa and recalled OF Matt Murton and RHP Rocky Cherry from Iowa before the game. … The Reds outrighted RHP Kirk Saarloos to Triple-A Louisville and purchased the contract of RHP Victor Santos from Louisville before the game. … The start of the game was delayed 1 hour, 27 minutes by rain. … The Cubs scored a first-inning run for the first time in their last seven games. … Adam Dunn of the Reds went 0-for-4, ending his hitting streak at 12 games.