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Cubs fall 5-4 to Reds as Wrigley homer trend continues

The situatistinks for Cubs starter Matt Garzafter Reds’ Jay Bruce homered off him fourth inning Friday Wrigley Field.  |

The situation stinks for Cubs starter Matt Garza after the Reds’ Jay Bruce homered off him in the fourth inning Friday at Wrigley Field. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 8, 2011 12:23AM

A cold and damp April might explain why Wrigley Field wasn’t home run-friendly for the Cubs.

Except that visitors still found it a fine venue for the long ball.

That continued Friday when Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jay Bruce socked a three-run homer in the fourth inning off Matt Garza. Not only was it the 18th homer by an
opponent in 15 games at Wrigley, but it made the difference in the Cubs’ 5-4 loss to start a nine-game homestand.

The Cubs have only nine homers at home.

Bruce’s shot was the first homer yielded by Garza (1-4), who got his first major-league hit in the third inning and eventually scored. The Cubs only had six other singles against Reds starter Edinson Volquez (3-1) and three relievers, but five walks and two Cincinnati errors gave them enough chances.

‘‘Numerous chances,’’ manager Mike Quade said. ‘‘You’re not going to beat hardly anyone at this level, let alone the Cincinnati Reds, if you don’t take advantage of the chances we had. It was obviously a frustrating day. It ain’t good, but far from hopeless.’’

The expectation is that a lineup hitting .269 collectively eventually will start getting hits when they count — with runners in scoring position. And the expectation is that the hits will start including homers.

‘‘If we have [nine] in July, then I’ll be concerned,’’ Quade said.
‘‘Today we were just looking for the line drive.’’

The Cubs had two, but both turned into double plays. In the fifth, with Starlin Castro at second and Aramis Ramirez at first,
Alfonso Soriano lined out to second baseman Brandon Phillips, who flipped to shortstop Edgar Renteria to catch Castro off the base. In the ninth, Darwin Barney hit a liner toward the middle with Kosuke
Fukudome at first, but Francisco Cordero grabbed it and tossed to first to double up Fukudome.

‘‘When you’re not scoring runs, it’s magnified by 10,’’ Quade said. ‘‘We have no margin for mistakes. On a warm day like today, we need to score more than four runs.’’

Garza had gone eight starts without allowing a homer, dating to last Sept. 20 with the Tampa Bay Rays.

‘‘That was the key hit,’’ Garza said of Bruce’s homer. ‘‘My job is to put zeros on the board. If I do my job, we’re doing a different song and dance now. These guys gave me plenty to work with.’’

But the Cubs stranded eight and still hit only 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, a dismal statistic that keeps occurring.

‘‘We have a good lineup and can swing the bat,’’ said Carlos Pena, who walked three times. ‘‘I don’t think we’ve seen the best of this lineup yet. There’s a lot of potential there, and I’m anxious to see it materialize. I thought we played a good game today but didn’t capitalize.

‘‘We had a good road trip [4-3], and we want to keep it up at home. This should be our turf.’’

Pena had his first two homers on the trip but still is looking for his first at Wrigley. So are Geovany Soto, who has three on the road; Marlon Byrd, who had one in Los Angeles, and Castro, who batted third again Friday.

Ramirez has hit one at Wrigley, but it was on April 6, and he hasn’t homered since.

‘‘We’re setting the table, just not clearing it off,’’ Quade said. ‘‘The one thing we can’t do is start changing a bunch of things and panicking. We’ve had some tough losses, but they work and believe in their work, and that’s what will get them out of it.’’

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