Reds avoid sweep by Cubs

Jeff Wallner, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Reds weren't in a jovial mood after dropping two straight games to the last-place Chicago Cubs. But a long-awaited home run by Jack Hannahan and an important win brought smiles to the home dugout on Wednesday.
Hannahan hit a three-run homer as a pinch hitter and catcher Devin Mesoraco added a solo shot, lifting the Reds to a 6-0 victory over the Cubs in the finale of a three-game series at Great American Ball Park.
"It was nice to see my teammates excited and having some fun," Hannahan said of his first homer this season. "At one point, you look up and it's September and you don't have a homer. It felt good. I put a good swing on it. I've never been a home run guy."
Cincinnati (83-64) avoided the sweep after losing the first two games by a combined score of 11-1. Overall, the Reds are pleased with a 7-3 homestand that included six victories over the first-place Dodgers and Cardinals.
"That's a very good homestand," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We're in a good position regardless of what happens. But we want to be in the best position we can be in."
Reds starter Mike Leake (13-6) struggled with his command at times on a steamy afternoon in Cincinnati, walking four in 5 2/3 innings. But he allowed just four hits and struck out six. And the Reds bullpen completed the shutout.
Leake needed 72 pitches to get through four innings but gave up just two hits.
"I didn't have my best stuff, but we needed a win today," Leake said. "You just have to battle through it. You don't want to get swept by the Cubs. We played two playoff-caliber teams (on the homestand). This race is going to come down to the last 15 games."
Chicago went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and left seven runners on base. The Cubs were shut out for the 13th time this season.
Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija (8-12) gave up six earned runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings. He walked three and struck out five. Samardzija already has set career highs in innings and starts.
Samardzija denied that fatigue was a factor, but Cubs manager Dale Sveum thought otherwise.
"He probably won't admit it, but I think it's probably a combination of that and being mentally worn out, too," Sveum said.
Jay Bruce singled and Todd Frazier doubled to begin the second inning. Both runners scored on RBI groundouts, putting Cincinnati ahead 2-0.
The Reds loaded the bases with two outs in the third. But Samardzija fanned Xavier Paul on his 71st pitch to end the inning.
Cincinnati used the long ball to take control.
Mesoraco launched a solo home run on an 0-1 pitch from Samardzija in the fourth to make the score 3-0. The 429-foot blast into the left-field bleachers was Mesoraco's 10th home run this season.
Hannahan, pinch-hitting in the sixth, crushed a 3-2 pitch from Samardzija 407 feet to right field, making the score 6-0. It was his first home run this season.
"I had good stuff out there," Samardzija said. "They just made me work. I threw a lot of pitches in the first few innings. I was getting ahead in the count, but they were fouling a lot of balls off. I was happy with how I pitched. I just threw a couple of pitches that made it look a little skewed."
NOTES: Hannahan hit his first career pinch-homer and his first home run since July 20, 2012, against Baltimore. ... Reds RHP Johnny Cueto threw 60 pitches during a simulated game on Wednesday morning. "He threw pretty good. Not surprising to me," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He's mechanically sound." Cueto has been on the disabled list since June 29 with a strained lat muscle. "I feel healthy," Cueto said through an interpreter. "I finished all my pitches. I felt good." It's possible that Cueto could return this season in a relief role. "I'll do whatever they want," he said. ... The Reds confirmed that the back injury causing LHP Tony Cingrani to leave Tuesday's game in the second inning is the same one that forced him to miss two starts while on the disabled list from Aug. 25 to Sept. 5. ... The Cubs claimed their first series victory in Cincinnati since winning two of three games on Aug. 3-5, 2009. Chicago has never swept a series at Great American Ball Park. ... Mesoraco homered for the first time since Aug. 3 when he hit two homers against St. Louis. ... It was Cincinnati's 13th shutout, tied with Pittsburgh for second most in the National League.

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