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Must C Campana: Campana hits an inside-the-park homer

CHICAGO -- Tony Campana will always remember his first home run.

The rookie had three hits, including an inside-the-park home run in the first inning, to back Ryan Dempster and lift the Cubs to a 4-3 victory Friday over the Reds for their sixth straight win.

Tyler Colvin smacked his fourth homer, a more traditional shot, in the second for the Cubs, who picked up the "W" in front of 42,245 fans, the second-largest crowd of the season. The six-game streak is the longest since they won half a dozen last Sept. 13-19.

"After struggling so bad, I point to the character of these guys and that they do keep playing and we're putting some things together," Cubs manager Mike Quade said.

Campana had never homered in the Minor Leagues or the Major Leagues, unless you count an inside-the-park homer in the playoffs last year for Double-A Tennessee. His last home run was his last hit for the University of Cincinnati in 2008. He had a slight edge then, though.

"Aluminum bat," he said.

Quade joked before the game that things were going so well, even the 5-foot-8, 165-pound rookie might connect.

"As soon as it happened, I looked at [bench coach Pat Listach] and said, 'You're not going to believe this,'" Quade said.

Of course, Campana had to deal with some razzing. Teammate Jeff Baker told the rookie that the hit was ruled a double and an error. But it wasn't.

Starlin Castro singled to lead off the first for the Cubs, the first of his three hits, and Campana then lined a 2-0 pitch from Mike Leake (9-7) into the left-field corner. Yonder Alonso tried to track down the ball, but it bounced toward the back wall. Campana scored standing up.

"I always got a hard time from guys in the Minors who said the only way I'd hit a home run was an inside-the-parker, and I guess they were right," Campana said.

He's the first Cubs player to hit an inside the park homer at Wrigley for his first career blast. The last Cubs player to hit an inside-the-park home run was Geovany Soto on May 19, 2008, at Houston; Sammy Sosa hit the last one for the Cubs at Wrigley on Oct. 6, 2001, against the Pirates.

Speed is something the Cubs have been missing.

"He's going to beat me in a foot race," Dempster said. "Even if he was to run backward, I think he's got me."

Campana doesn't need to do that.

"If he can handle the bat and do the little things, that speed is unbelievable," Quade said. "He was as good as he could be today."

Campana missed hitting for the cycle by a triple, and missed catching a bloop RBI single by Leake in the fourth, which dropped in front of the diving center fielder.

"It was in my glove," Campana said of the ball. "I blame my glove."

Another run scored that inning on a wild pitch by Dempster to close to 3-2. It was the only miscue by Campana. With a runner on, he robbed Brandon Phillips of possible extra bases in the seventh when he grabbed a well-hit ball against the ivy-covered center-field wall.

"When he first hit it, I thought it was gone," Campana said. "I just turned my back and started running and peeked up and thought, 'Ah, I think I'm going to get a shot at it.'"

Carlos Pena added a sacrifice fly in the seventh to open a 4-2 lead. Ramon Hernandez closed the gap to 4-3 with a leadoff homer in the eighth off Kerry Wood. Carlos Marmol pitched the ninth for his 24th save.

Dempster (9-8) gave up two runs on four hits and six walks over six innings. It was the 14th quality start by a Cubs pitcher in the last 21 games, and they are 10-4 in those games. The walks did match Dempster's season high; he also walked a half-dozen on June 18 against the Yankees.

"I battled," Dempster said. "One minute, I felt I could throw the ball where I wanted, and the next minute, I was hoping I'd get it around the plate."

"We had [Dempster] on the ropes in the first inning," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We just had trouble putting the ball in play. We're striking out far too much with runners in scoring position. We need to do some damage."

The Reds stranded 12, the Cubs left 10. There were plenty of chances.

"The bullpen deserves most of the credit for the last six games we've played," Dempster said. "They've been as good as anybody out there. Everybody's contributing."

Including the little guy in center. Comments