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Matt Garza can’t stop Cubs’ losing streak

CINCINNATI OH - JUNE 6: Matt Garz#17 Chicago Cubs pitches against Cincinnati Reds GreAmerican Ball Park June 6 2011 Cincinnati

CINCINNATI, OH - JUNE 6: Matt Garza #17 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on June 6, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) R:\Merlin\Getty_Photos\GYI0065046533.jpg

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Updated: September 29, 2011 12:27AM

CINCINNATI — The Cubs finally got one back Monday night.

Not that it helped them finally win a game. The return of one guy off the disabled list — even the guy who was the team’s best pitcher when he exited — wasn’t powerful enough to turn back the Cubs’ slide.

But at least Matt Garza looked healthy during the Cubs’ 8-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. And the Cubs didn’t ­appear to get anyone else hurt in the game.

That was about the extent of the good news as the Cubs opened another road series against another contender — and dropped to 12 games under .500 (23-35).

The day after Carlos Zambrano said the team “stinks,’’ nobody did anything to refute the point.

Garza (2-5) looked strong enough to pop some mid-90s fastballs but after a 1-2-3 first inning he struggled in his first start since May 17 — “rusty,’’ said manager Mike Quade.

The right-hander lasted just four innings, trailing 4-1 at the time, having walked three and given up a solo homer to Drew Stubbs.

“Physically, I feel fine,’’ he said. “I was a little off. That’s not what I wanted to come back to. I wanted to go five, six strong and do what I usually do. I think it was mainly just [19] days off not facing a hitter. ... I’ll just get back to work tomorrow and get ready to pitch again in five days.’’

The return of Garza puts the top four pitchers in the Cubs’ opening rotation back together for the first time since the first week of the season.

But even if that creates a boost, is it enough? Is it too little, too late?

Not only do the Cubs rank last in the majors in team ERA, but they’re also near the bottom in fielding and hitting with men in scoring position — two weaknesses that again were factors Monday.

“It’s a lot of the same stuff,’’ Quade said.

The last time the Cubs were in Cincinnati they were swept in a sloppy two-game series. The Reds then lost 13 of the next 15 — until Monday.

“We’re just in a tough place right now, but we’re going to keep grinding it out and fighting through it like everybody else,’’ Garza said. “And we’re not going to roll over, and I don’t think anybody’s going to roll over for us. There’s still four months left of baseball, boys.’’

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