Bruce’s slam leads Reds over Cubs 10-2

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CINCINNATI (AP)—The first-place Cubs have lost their way.

Jay Bruce hit his first career grand slam and Joey Votto added a two-run homer Friday night, an all-rookie power display that sent the Cincinnati Reds to a 10-2 victory on a day when nothing went right for Chicago.

Manager Lou Piniella got lost on his way to the ballpark. Starter Ted Lilly lasted a season-low two innings. And the Cubs’ losing streak reached a season-high six games against a team already eliminated from the race.

“That’s not what we expected,” Piniella said.

It’s how the week has gone.

Lilly (13-9) gave up five runs, including Votto’s 18th homer, before his quick exit. The left-hander has started four times against the Reds this season and lost all four.

“For one reason or another, one way or another, they’ve found a way to beat me,” Lilly said. “A couple of games, I’ve thrown the ball OK. That wasn’t the case tonight. That was probably my most disappointing start of the year. I had much more motivation to win this one, given the circumstances of the last few days.”

Bruce hit his 16th homer off Jon Lieber for a 9-0 lead in the fourth inning, silencing the thousands of blue-shirted Cubs fans in the stands. By that point, the Cubs knew they were finished, given the way their offense has struggled in the past week.

“I know at some point we’re going to break out and score runs and play like we’re capable of playing,” Lilly said. “I think everybody else in this clubhouse knows that, regardless what’s happened the last six games.”

Bruce and Votto have the most homers by any rookie duo in the NL, providing a little long-range hope for a franchise that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 1995.

“We’re pushing each other,” Bruce said. “Hopefully, we’re giving the fans something to watch and getting on a roll for next year.”

Right-hander Bronson Arroyo (14-10) won his fourth straight start, allowing one run in 6 1-3 innings. Afterward, he taped the Spanish phrase for his No. 61 on the back of his jersey, making fun of Bengals receiver Chad Johnson’s name change to Ocho Cinco.

“My father’s Cuban, so I’m half,” Arroyo said. “I was at home watching that today. It was unbelievable. He was on every talk show.”

The Cubs kicked off their longest road trip at the scene of one of their best moments. They clinched the NL Central title at Great American Ball Park last season, when they won 85 games and got knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. They’ve had the World Series—something they haven’t won in 100 years—in the back of their minds all season long.

Until the past week, they’ve played like they could very well get there. They’ve already won 85 games—most in the NL—and have been in first place since May 11.

September has been disastrous. Ace Carlos Zambrano got an injection in his sore pitching shoulder on Thursday and will miss at least one start. Right-hander Rich Harden also will miss a start because of a bothersome arm.

The Cubs can’t even get to the ballpark without losing their way.

Piniella and first base coach Matt Sinatro left Chicago at 8 a.m. for a five-hour drive to Cincinnati. With Sinatro driving and Piniella napping, they missed a turnoff and wound up in northeast Ohio—the wrong end of the state.

They stopped at a gas station, bought a map and backtracked along two-lane roads, arriving at the ballpark only two hours before the first pitch. Travel time: 8 hours.

The Cubs’ chances of winning went by in a blink. After Bruce’s homer made it 9-0, Piniella removed his cap and shook his head a few times in disbelief. By the sixth inning, he was freely substituting for his starters, already looking ahead to the next game.

“The truth of the matter is, you’ve got to get it done,” Piniella said. “And it’s been a struggle over the past half-a-dozen games or so to put runs on the board. And when you’re pitching is not good, it gets ugly like it did tonight.”

Notes

Harden threw Friday without problem. He’ll skip his scheduled start Sunday, but likely will start Wednesday in St. Louis if there is no setback. … Zambrano hopes to play catch on Sunday and start a game next weekend in Houston. … Lilly has given up a career-high 31 homers. … The start of the game was delayed 17 minutes by rain, which fell intermittently during the early innings. … It was only the second time since the Reds traded Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn that they scored 10 runs in a game.

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