LaRue batted second for the first time this season and came through with a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning, then singled home another run in a four-run ninth as the Cincinnati Reds beat Chicago 8-3 Tuesday. It was the seventh consecutive loss for the Cubs.
"They're kind of rolling through a little funk right now and we're playing well," said winning pitcher Aaron Harang. "The team is putting some runs on the board and playing good defense behind the starters."
"We need to win ballgames, that's pretty obvious," Prior said. "We haven't done that in a week. We need to win 'A' ballgame."
LaRue's drive over the left-field bleachers came off Will Ohman (2-2), who had just entered. It was the catcher's 10th of the season. Ironically, he was moved up to second because of his success against Prior.
Cubs manager Dusty Baker brought in the left-handed Ohman for Prior -- who had thrown 117 pitches in seven innings -- because the Reds had three left-handed hitters due up after LaRue, batting only .231 against lefties.
"He hit a pretty good pitch," Baker said. "We couldn't close them out at the end."
"We're not playing good, that's the bottom line," Prior said. "I'm not going to sit here and analyze what people are doing or not doing. We're not playing good and we're not winning ballgames."
Harang (8-10) yielded eight hits, striking out three and walking none in seven innings.
"I couldn't say enough good things about him," LaRue said. "He mixed his pitches up well and the main thing, he kept the ball down in the zone."
The Cubs, 6½ games behind Houston in the NL wild-card race, are hitting .233 and have scored just 20 runs during their most recent slide. Chicago's pitching staff has a 5.83 ERA in that time.
"We don't need to convince (media and fans) we're still in it," Baker said. "We have to convince ourselves before we can convince anybody. We've got a big game tomorrow and the St. Louis Cardinals coming, so we certainly need to win this game tomorrow."
Matt Lawton's two-run double with two outs in the second gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead. With one out, Patterson reached on a bunt single and Henry Blanco followed with a single. Prior's sacrifice set up Lawton's hit.
Sean Casey doubled in the second and later scored on an error for Cincinnati.
Griffey led off the sixth with his 25th home run to tie the game at 2-2. Garciaparra's homer in the bottom half of the inning gave the Cubs the lead again.
"In my first two at-bats, I thought I hit the ball hard," said Garciaparra, who also grounded out twice and struck out once. "Every day, every time you step up to the plate, you want to hit the ball hard and try and build on it."
But Encarnacion's leadoff homer, his second of the season, tied it in the seventh before the Reds' outburst in the last two innings.
- LaRue came into the game hitting .375 (6-for-16) with three RBI against Prior. He went 1-for-3 against Prior with a double.
- Garciaparra's wife, soccer star Mia Hamm, was in an attendance.
- Former NASCAR champion Kurt Busch threw out the first pitch and sang Take Me Out To The Ball Game on the same day it was announced he is leaving his Roush Racing team to move to Roger Penske's team.
- Patterson went 1-for-4 in his return.
- The Cubs said Carlos Zambrano, who left the game early Sunday with a stiff back, will make his next start Friday.