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CHC@CIN: Cubs fall to Reds on Hanigan's walk-off hit

CINCINNATI -- The Cubs know their 2012 campaign is nearing the end of the road. But just because the postseason isn't in the works this year doesn't mean the season is a wash.

Earlier this weekend, manager Dale Sveum said the rough patches of the season bring out the true character of the athletes. With little to play for at this point in 2012, the Cubs could have let the first-place Reds strut away from Great American Ball Park with four wins in their back pocket.

Instead, the Cubs fought and clawed all weekend, with Sunday being no exception. Chicago erased an early three-run deficit before dropping a 5-4 decision to the Reds on a walk-off single by Ryan Hanigan in front a sold-out crowd of 41,615 at Great American Ball Park.

That character that Sveum was looking for was on full display Sunday afternoon as the Cubs strung together two rallies to battle back from the three-run deficit and stay alive in the contest.

With the score knotted at 4 in the top of the ninth, 24-year-old Brett Jackson lined a double off Reds closer Aroldis Chapman to keep the Cubs' hopes alive.

Jackson had already made his mark on the weekend series, ripping his first career home run in the night portion of Saturday's doubleheader but wanted to leave a lasting impression. Given the green light, Jackson darted to steal third, but was thrown out by the future hero of the game, Hanigan.

"Those are some of the young things unfortunately we might see, but at least one guy was being aggressive and trying to win the game by himself," Sveum said. "I didn't mind the aggressiveness at all. I think that shows you a little bit of the character. Hopefully a lot more stuff like that will come."

The play could have easily gone either way. Had Jackson made it, the Cubs' travels to Milwaukee may have been a little more pleasant.

"I thought maybe I might have gotten in there. It was close," Jackson said. "It was a perfect throw right on the bag by Hanigan. Not that I thought the guys behind me weren't going to drive me in, I just thought I had a good jump on him. Unfortunately, I got thrown out and third and we end up losing by one. It's disappointing."

Jackson's efforts were the final attempt to swipe victory Sunday in an afternoon full of general disappointing endings on the diamond for the Cubs.

One inning prior, in the midst of a Cubs rally propelled by two Reds errors, Luis Valbuena was caught off the bag at third base as the go-ahead run for the third out of the inning. Had he avoided the miscue, Alfonso Soriano would have stepped to the plate, one swing away from taking the lead.

Back in the sixth inning, the Cubs compiled a no-out, bases-loaded threat off Reds starter Mat Latos, but only managed two runs out of it.

"Not some of the smartest baseball I've ever seen today," Sveum said.

The frustrations began from the opening frame, when Cubs starter Chris Volstad elevated a pitch to Jay Bruce, who ripped it to right to score the first run of the game.

The struggles spilled over into the fourth inning when the 25-year-old righty allowed three consecutive singles to the middle of Cincinnati's order to start the inning and surrender the lead. A sacrifice fly RBI followed by a single from Latos to right drove in the next two runs.

"I made a couple good pitches to start the inning off. I'm not really too upset with those," Volstad said. "But the next couple hitters after that, obviously I left a couple pitches up. One to Latos was a big killer. There's no reason for him to get a hit right there ... but other than that, I felt good with what was going on."

Volstad looked and felt comfortable for the majority of the outing, and eventually settled in to retire the final eight he faced. His day ended after six innings, giving up four runs on seven hits while striking out four in a no-decision.

For those keeping track at home, that marks 24 straight starts for Volstad without a win, dating back to July 17, 2011. He is 0-9 with a 6.88 ERA in 13 starts this season, but also showed his maturity after the game Sunday, saying he's taken the pressure off himself and putting the streak behind him.

"I'm done with that," Volstad said. "If you've won five in a row and you've got a five-game win streak, are you going to worry about not wining your next game? Or if you've lost five in a row, are you going to worry about losing? No, you're going to go out there and compete and try and win each individual time you're out there. That's all I'm doing."

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