Reds 11, Cubs 4

The Cincinnati Reds didn’t want to think about their series with
the St. Louis Cardinals until they finished off the Cubs.

They’ll go into it with plenty of momentum.

Joey Votto and Jonny Gomes scored four runs apiece to back a
strong start by Travis Wood, and the Reds beat the Cubs 11-4 on
Sunday for their ninth win in 11 games.

”We’re playing good right now,” Gomes said. ”Coming into a
hostile environment and being able to take three from the Cubs
shows a lot about the character of this team.”

Wood (3-1) took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before fading
late. Votto backed him with a two-run homer in the eighth and had
two hits, and Gomes set a career-high with four walks and came
around each time. He also singled late in the game but did not
score.

Jay Bruce added three hits, including a two-run double in the
first, and the Reds banged out 13 in all while handing Chicago its
10th loss in 11 games.

Things figure to get a little tougher for the NL Central
leaders, with a three-game series against second-place St. Louis at
Great American Ball Park starting Monday. The Reds lead the
Cardinals by two games.

”Its time,” manager Dusty Baker said. ”They had been wanting
us to focus on it but we had to focus on the Cubs. To come in here
and get a sweep in Chicago is big for us.”

Wood, who retired the first 24 batters against Philadelphia on
July 10, had another no-hit bid going before Koyie Hill’s one-out
single in the sixth. He lost the shutout when Jeff Baker led off a
four-run seventh by driving the first pitch out to center for his
fourth homer and eventually got chased after a one-out double by
Xavier Nady that cut the lead to 8-4.

Before that, Wood was looking good again at Wrigley Field.

He pitched into the eighth last month at the famed ballpark in
his major league debut, and wound up allowing four runs and just
four hits on Sunday, although the Cubs flied out to the warning
track six times against him.

Chicago’s Thomas Diamond (0-2) lasted just three innings and
allowed five runs and four hits in his second major league start.
He walked three and hit one, and had one strikeout after getting 10
against Milwaukee on Tuesday while tying Mark Prior for the most by
a debuting Cubs rookie since 1920.

There were several lapses in the field, including a throwing
error by shortstop Starlin Castro in the first and a bases-loaded
pop fly into the sun and wind by Juan Francisco in the third that
dropped between center fielder Marlon Byrd, right fielder Nady and
Castro that allowed a run to score.

Nady also dropped a run-scoring triple by Miguel Cairo in the
ninth after he apparently lost the ball in the sun.

”We’d better do something because if not, it’s going to be a
long two months,” Alfonso Soriano said.

It’s already been a long, trying season.

Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez have underperformed, and there was
that big dugout blowup by former ace Carlos Zambrano. Manager Lou
Piniella is retiring at the end of the season, and now he’ll be
tending to his ailing mother for the next few games after missing
three recently to attend his uncle’s funeral.

He hopes to rejoin the Cubs at some point on their six-game trip
to San Francisco and St. Louis.

”Spiraling out of control? We need to turn it around, no
question,” Piniella said. ”It’s no fun to go out there and get
beat. We’re playing good teams. We’ve got San Francisco, we’ve got
St. Louis and then we’ve got San Diego and then Atlanta. We better
be up to the challenge to play better.”

NOTES: The game was delayed 15 minutes at the start by rain. …
Baker said he’s sticking with closer Francisco Cordero after
pulling him during a rough ninth Saturday. ”We’ve got 63 wins and
he’s got 30 saves,” Baker said. ”How many other closers have that
ratio of saves to wins for a team?” … Zambrano will be limited
to 75 to 80 pitches Monday at San Francisco when he makes his first
start in six weeks, Piniella said. The former ace was suspended,
sent to anger-management counseling and banished to the bullpen
after a June 25 dugout tirade.