Cincinnati at Chicago

Chi. Cubs
W: J. Stevens (1-0) L: J. Lehr (4-2)
S: C. Marmol (12)
HR: CIN - J. Gomes (19)   CHC - G. Soto (10)

Soto's homer pushes Cubs to four-game win streak wire reports

CHICAGO -- Ten months ago, Geovany Soto was the near-unanimous choice as NL Rookie of the Year. These days, the Chicago Cubs catcher is just trying to find his swing so his manager will put him in the lineup card more often.

"This game will humble you in a minute," Soto said Friday after driving in two runs with his first homer since Aug. 10 and a sacrifice fly in a 6-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

"Everything's a challenge. You've got to keep grinding. You can't give up. Sometimes, I wanted to put my head down ... but I never did."

After batting .285 with 23 home runs and 86 RBI last season, Soto is at .220 with 10 homers and 37 RBI this year. The falloff came after a difficult offseason, as the Cubs didn't re-sign his mentor, Henry Blanco, and Soto tested positive for marijuana at the World Baseball Classic.

He went on the disabled list retroactive to July 7 with a strained oblique muscle. After coming off the DL exactly one month later, he batted .140 with one homer and four RBI in his next 16 games. Manager Lou Piniella also started platooning Soto with light-hitting Koyie Hill; the Cubs are 38-23 in games caught by Hill vs. 34-44 in Soto's starts.

"Sometimes, it feels like you're swimming against the current and you're not getting anywhere," said Soto, who has two RBI in each of his last three games. "I've learned you've got to keep fighting. I've still got a lot of work to do, but I feel better at the plate."

Aramis Ramirez rebounded from a poor trip to go 3 for 3 with three RBI for the Cubs. Chicago, coming off a three-game sweep at Pittsburgh, had not won four in a row since taking five straight from Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Houston from July 22-27.

Cincinnati has lost five consecutive games. The Reds (63-78) have had four skids of five games or longer since the All-Star break.

"Whenever you lose it's usually the case that you're not getting that hit," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "They got a couple of big ones, especially by Aramis Ramirez, who wasn't swinging well before we got here. We had trouble getting that hit."

Ramirez had as many hits Friday as he did in 22 at-bats during a six-game trip that ended Wednesday. He is batting .398 with 31 RBI in 31 home games, but .241 with 23 RBI in 35 road games.

Jeff Stevens (1-0) allowed Jonny Gomes' tying three-run homer in the fifth, winning in relief of Rich Harden, who allowed one run, two hits and five walks in four innings, throwing 103 pitches.

"The first inning, he threw 40 pitches and I knew it was going to be a relatively short outing after that," Piniella said. "He hit his pitch count in the fourth and we got him out of there."

Aaron Heilman, Esmailin Caridad and Carlos Marmol combined four innings of one-hit relief to finish the six-hitter, with Marmol getting three outs for his 12th save in 16 chances.

Chicago, which began the day 11½ games back of NL Central-leading St. Louis, is 18-6 against division rivals Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and 54-61 against the other teams on its schedule.

Justin Lehr (4-2), who pitched a four-hit shutout against the Cubs last month, allowed five runs and five hits in 4 2-3 innings.

"I have good enough stuff to definitely pitch better," Lehr said. "I left some stuff up in the zone, gave up three runs on two-out hits [by Ramirez] ... and two of my walks scored. It doesn't put you in a situation to win."

Ramirez's two-run single gave Chicago a 3-1 lead in the third, and Soto homered in the fourth. Ramirez's RBI single in the fifth put the Cubs ahead for good, and pinch-hitter Bobby Scales doubled in a run in the eighth against Nick Masset.


  • Cubs LF Alfonso Soriano is to get a second opinion on the left knee injury that has sidelined him since Sept. 4, and Piniella said it was "doubtful" Soriano will play again this season. Piniella also said Soriano's days of batting leadoff were "over with." Soriano, whose 54 career leadoff homers rank second in major league history to Rickey Henderson's 81, had been hitting sixth since July 4.
  • Reds RHP Micah Owings rejoined the team Friday, five days after he was hit in the helmet by a pitch from Atlanta's Kenshin Kawakami. Tests were normal and Owings said he felt fine, but Baker said Owings likely won't play in the series.
Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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Geovany Soto has picked up his game lately. He has four hits and six RBI over his last three games. (AP)
Geovany Soto has picked up his game lately. He has four hits and six RBI over his last three games. (AP)

Players of the Game

A. Ramirez
AB 3
R 2
H 3
HR 0

J. Gomes
AB 4
R 1
H 1
HR 1

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Cincinnati Reds
Drew Stubbs, CF3110212 .250
Paul Janish, SS3000213 .207
Joey Votto, 1B5121034 .299
Brandon Phillips, 2B4110124 .275
Scott Rolen, 3B3000124 .310
Jonny Gomes, LF4113005 .279
Darnell McDonald, RF4000000 .211
Craig Tatum, C3010000 .175
    Jared Burton, P0000000 .000
    Danny Herrera, P0000000 .000
   a- Kevin Barker, PH1000010 .348
    Nick Masset, P0000000 .000
Justin Lehr, P1000010 .125
    Ryan Hanigan, C2000010 .271
a-struck out for Herrera in the 8th
HR - Jonny Gomes (19, Stevens)
SH - Justin Lehr (4)
RBI - Joey Votto (69), Jonny Gomes 3 (48)
SB - Drew Stubbs 2 (5, 2nd base off Harden/Soto, 3rd base off Harden/Soto), Paul Janish (1, 2nd base off Harden/Soto)
Team LOB - 9
DP - Votto-Janish
Cincinnati Reds
Justin Lehr (L,4-2) 4.2555311 4.93
Jared Burton 1.1000000 5.14
Danny Herrera 1000000 2.95
Nick Masset 1211010 2.76
HBP - Ramirez (by Justin Lehr)
WP - Justin Lehr (3)
Pitches-Strikes - Justin Lehr 81-47, Jared Burton 15-10, Danny Herrera 7-6, Nick Masset 19-14
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Justin Lehr 6-6, Jared Burton 3-1, Danny Herrera 1-2, Nick Masset 2-0
Batters Faced - Justin Lehr 22, Jared Burton 4, Danny Herrera 3, Nick Masset 5
Chicago Cubs
Kosuke Fukudome, CF2100200 .267
Milton Bradley, RF4110012 .266
Derrek Lee, 1B4110001 .299
Aramis Ramirez, 3B3233000 .315
Micah Hoffpauir, LF2000102 .233
    Aaron Heilman, P0000000 .000
    Esmailin Caridad, P0000000 .000
   a- Bobby Scales, PH1011000 .253
    Carlos Marmol, P0000000 .000
Jeff Baker, 2B4000012 .297
Geovany Soto, C3112001 .220
    Koyie Hill, C0000000 .240
Ryan Theriot, SS3000001 .286
Rich Harden, P1000000 .186
   b- Aaron Miles, PH1000000 .179
    Jeff Stevens, P0000000 .000
    Sam Fuld, LF1000000 .271
a-doubled for Caridad in the 8th
b-grounded out for Harden in the 4th
2B - Derrek Lee (31, Lehr), Bobby Scales (5, Masset)
HR - Geovany Soto (10, Lehr)
SF - Geovany Soto (5)
RBI - Aramis Ramirez 3 (54), Bobby Scales (9), Geovany Soto 2 (37)
2-OUT RBI - Aramis Ramirez 3 (25)
SB - Aramis Ramirez (1, 2nd base off Burton/Hanigan)
Team LOB - 4
Chicago Cubs
Rich Harden 4211560 4.04
Jeff Stevens (W,1-0) 1333001 9.72
Aaron Heilman (H,10) 2000030 4.22
Esmailin Caridad (H,1) 1000010 2.89
Carlos Marmol (S,12) 1100120 3.24
WP - Rich Harden (6), Carlos Marmol (6)
Pitches-Strikes - Rich Harden 103-59, Jeff Stevens 26-19, Aaron Heilman 34-22, Esmailin Caridad 17-9, Carlos Marmol 27-16
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Rich Harden 2-5, Jeff Stevens 1-2, Aaron Heilman 1-2
Batters Faced - Rich Harden 20, Jeff Stevens 6, Aaron Heilman 6, Esmailin Caridad 3, Carlos Marmol 5
Game Information
Attendance - 39881
Game Time - 2:57
Temperature - 72
Umpires - Home - Ed Rapuano, First Base - Paul Schrieber, Second Base - Paul Nauert, Third Base - Joe West