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Reds Dig The Long Ball: Cubs 7, Reds 12

Maybe it's my fault. I did, after all, sort of predict this in the pregame thread when I said:

Let's be realistic. It's going to be warm and somewhat humid today with the wind blowing out. Lilly and Arroyo rank 5th and 6th in the NL in HR allowed. Watch for long balls on both sides this afternoon.

What I was thinking was that the teams would pretty much evenly split their home runs and the Cubs come out on top. I would never have guessed that the only Cub HR would be hit by the littlest Cub, Mike Fontenot, and the Reds would pound out seven, including possibly the longest one I've ever seen hit onto Sheffield -- by Adam Dunn in the sixth inning; it appeared to hit the Lakeview Baseball Club building just below the AC sign, a blast that, if you believe the foot-marker that was on that building briefly in the 1980's, was about 480-490 feet.

Even at that, the Cubs did try to climb back into the game, helped by some shoddy Reds defense; after the Reds took an 8-3 lead into the bottom of the 4th, the Cubs closed it to 8-5 on Fontenot's HR, and then 10-7 in the sixth when they should have scored more; Edwin Encarnacion's throw in the general vicinity of right field on an attempted force at 2B gave the Cubs runners on first and third with nobody out, and a run already in, but Ryan Theriot hit an almost identical ball to Encarnacion. He turned it into a DP; a run scored, but that was their last, best opportunity of the 12-7 loss to the Reds this afternoon, which, combined with Milwaukee's 11-1 blowout of Colorado and the Cardinals' loss to the Phillies, put the Brewers in second place, four games behind the Cubs, so the division lead shrinks by only a half-game, rather than a full game, as second place changes hands.

By the time Theriot hit into the DP, a moderate rainshower had dampened the Yard -- apparently, no one but us had prepared for rain, because I saw virtually no other umbrellas anywhere in the park and only a few ponchos; the rain and the unfavorable score sent about a third of the crowd home at that point, and by the time Neal Cotts allowed the last Reds HR of the game to Joey Votto, about half the 41,459 had departed.

These things are going to happen, even to good teams, and it's hard to sweep series; the Cubs won this one and if they can take two of three from the Giants this weekend, they'll go into the break in fine shape. But I do have a bone to pick with Lou Piniella over his use of the 13-man pitching staff today. Yes, there are plenty of relievers, especially after most of them got yesterday off. But that was an awfully quick hook of Ted Lilly -- yes, he wasn't sharp, but only 63 pitches? And Lou -- you've got a long reliever. His name is Jon Lieber. Why wasn't he the first pitcher into the game, if you are going to take your starter out in the third inning? (Not that Lieber did all that well today, either, but that's not the point.) Michael Wuertz, the forgotten man in the pen (hadn't pitched in a week, and neither had Lieber, for that matter), had nothing today -- the Reds pounded him. Maybe that's not fair -- the Reds pounded everyone the Cubs sent out there, including Chad Gaudin, who gave up a HR to the first batter he faced in blue pinstripes. After allowing a single to the next man he faced, pinch-hitter Jay Bruce, he retired the next six hitters easily.

In discussing this in the bleachers today, we reached the conclusion that Lieber or Wuertz might be the odd-man out after the All-Star break. Lieber's probably going to retire after this season anyway, Lou doesn't seem to trust him much, and he's only got (approximately) $1.5 million left on his contract. I could see him being unconditionally released. Wuertz, despite today's poor performance, does have trade value, and perhaps Jim Hendry is working on that. That makes tomorrow's start by Jason Marquis important not only for the team, but for Marquis, because he could also be on the "get rid of" list. One of those three is likely to not be a Cub when they reconvene in Houston next Friday.

Dave was also very critical of Kosuke Fukudome today; he said, "The Cubs wanted him because he supposedly had LH power, but he hasn't hit for much power." That's true, and I think most of us expected that his power would drop on coming over from Japan, as happens to many Japanese players. Fukudome has added value in other areas, including plate discipline and good defense, but the league seems to be catching up to him and he needs to make adjustments. He looked really bad today in going 0-for-5 and striking out three times; he'll go to the All-Star Game primarily because of online voting from Japan (I think all of us acknowledge that he really doesn't deserve the slot based on performance), but I suspect he could really take advantage

of some time off. With the Giants starting three righthanders this weekend and with only three true outfielders on the major league roster, don't look for much time off for either Fukudome or Jim Edmonds, and they could both use it.

Losses happen, even blowouts. The offense did enough today to win, but the bullpen failed -- eight runs allowed in 6.1 innings. Ugh. Go get 'em tomorrow.

Note from walking around the ballpark pre-game today: the Matt Murton jerseys are all on clearance. You can get one for $69.99, which in my opinion is too much. I'm guessing they'll be cut to about half that before any got sold.

Oh, and for those of you who did want, or still want, Erik Bedard -- it's a good thing he's still a Mariner. He's on the DL again. (And, just to note, that article also mentions the Mariners' release of Richie Sexson -- they are eating $6 million of his contract.)