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CIN@CHC: Cueto strikes out seven over six innings

CHICAGO -- There's no such thing as a bad win.

An ugly or sloppy win? Oh yeah, those happen. And the Reds were lucky to come away with a victory Sunday at Wrigley Field.

The Reds' defense committed three errors, their pitchers walked five and their hitters left 13 men on base. But the Reds were out-uglied by the Cubs, as Cincinnati left Chicago with a 4-3 victory and series win.

"That's what you call an ugly win," manager Dusty Baker said. "Just sort of which team played worse today, and we're fortunate enough to come away with the win. You take anything you can, but we've still got to play and execute better."

For as much as Cincinnati struggled, Chicago kept pace. The Cubs committed two errors, walked eight and left 12 men on base.

But for all of the game's ugliness, the sixth inning trumped all. Using two walks, two errors, a fielder's choice and a hit batter, the Reds took the lead without recording a base hit.

Cubs reliever Rodrigo Lopez opened the inning by walking catcher Ryan Hanigan. Reds starter Johnny Cueto followed with a sacrifice bunt, but catcher Geovany Soto's throw to first hit Cueto in the back to put two on.

Shortstop Zack Cozart attempted another bunt -- this one down the third-base line -- and Soto's throw to second baseman Blake DeWitt at first base pulled DeWitt off the bag to load the bases. Center fielder Drew Stubbs followed with a grounder to shortstop, which brought home the go-ahead run.

Cubs lefty Scott Maine entered with runners on the corners and one out to face Votto -- whom he struck out -- but hit Ryan Ludwick to load the bases before walking Jay Bruce to bring home Cueto.

"You keep putting them out there, something's going to happen," Baker said. "Just tell your guys -- like pressure on a busted pipe -- keep pressure on them, keep putting them out there. And fortunately for us, we pushed one across with a walk."

Starting the frame with a walk set the tone for the inning, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.

"Walking the leadoff guy, it snowballed the whole inning as well as the bunts," Sveum said. "They were giving us outs and we didn't get outs on the bunts."

Although the Reds came away victorious, they were fortunate the Cubs didn't take advantage of the numerous mistakes they made themselves.

After regaining the lead, Cueto opened the bottom of the seventh with a one-out walk to center fielder Tony Campana and hit Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro. Reliever Logan Ondrusek replaced Cueto and walked pinch-hitter Steve Clevenger. Ondrusek rebounded by striking out Alfonso Soriano, and lefty Aroldis Chapman entered and got Ian Stewart looking to end the inning.

"I liked how they threw, because they came in and got the outs and they protected my runs and they got the outs so we could win the game," Cueto (2-0, 1.78 ERA) said through an interpreter.

Those two big outs by the bullpen preserved the victory for Cueto, who allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits in 6 1/3 innings while striking out seven.

"He has a nice slider, changeup. He elevates when he wants to and has something extra on his fastball," Sveum said of Cueto. "In these conditions, those kind of pitchers, it's very difficult to string a lot of hits together and runs unless you can pop a three-run homer or two-run double, something like that."

After Cincinnati jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third on an RBI double by Votto and run-scoring single by Rolen, the Cubs rallied against Cueto in the fifth. Cueto began the inning by hitting pinch-hitter Joe Mather, who advanced to second on a chopper back to the right-hander. Castro followed with an infield hit on a grounder deep into the hole at short, putting runners on the corners with two outs.

With Bryan LaHair at the plate, Cueto attempted to pick off Castro, but the throw went off Votto's glove and got past the first baseman, allowing Mather to score.

LaHair singled up the middle three pitches later to tie the game, but that was all the Cubs would get until Castro tripled and scored in the ninth.

"He located and kept us off balance at times, it seemed like the right times," LaHair said. "There were a couple balls hit that if they went our way, would've changed things."

No matter how ugly Sunday's win, the victory brings a positive end to an otherwise downer road trip. Although the Reds finished their 11-day, 10-game trek under .500 at 4-6, they took two-of-three in Chicago to earn the series win against their divisional opponent.

"Every series is important, but against your division, it's more important, especially now with the extra playoff team," Ondrusek said.

The Reds now return to Great American Ball Park on Tuesday against the Giants after Monday's off-day and hope to keep their winning ways -- good, ugly or in-between -- going.

"It was a good getaway day victory, which we always preach about here -- especially the last day of the road trip when you've been gone a long time," said Baker. "You have to keep pushing and not think about home and just think about what you've got to do. Now we can go home and enjoy our off-day." Comments