Germano cruises, then falters as Cubs fall

Germano cruises, then falters as Cubs fall

Germano cruises, then falters as Cubs fall
CHICAGO -- If the Cubs were "sleep walking" in Monday's loss to the Pirates, it took until the eighth inning on Tuesday for them to wake up.

Ryan Hanigan hit a three-run double in the sixth inning to spark the Reds to a 3-1 victory Tuesday night over the Cubs, reducing their magic number to clinch the National League Central Division to four.

Darwin Barney had two of the Cubs' four hits to extend his hitting streak a personal-high 13 games -- he's batting .409 in that stretch -- but that was about it.

"Besides Barney, there wasn't a whole lot of balls squared up all night long," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "After swinging the bats really well the first few days against Pittsburgh and then [struggling on Monday] and tonight, it was kind of discouraging because we thought we had everybody swinging the bats at the same time. We've kind of gone backwards right now."

Blame Homer Bailey (12-9). He notched his career-high 12th win and is tied for the Reds' lead with 20 quality starts. He's also 3-0 in four starts against the Cubs this year. Chicago mustered two hits Monday night against the Pirates, both by Barney, and he got the first hit Tuesday, a one-out single in the third.

Steve Clevenger singled to open the fifth, and that was it until Barney singled again with one out in the eighth. Barney then scored on pinch-hitter Bryan LaHair's double.

The Reds opened a 3-0 lead in the sixth. Justin Germano (2-8) held Cincinnati to three hits over five innings but then walked the first three batters in the sixth. Germano, who had not walked more than two in his nine other starts, was replaced by Manuel Corpas, and he got Scott Rolen to fly out. But Hanigan then doubled into right-center to clear the bases and give the Reds a 3-0 lead.

"I think the last time I walked that many guys was my second big league start in 2004," said Germano, who walked five overall. "I don't think I've ever walked the bases loaded before in my professional career, so that was a first and it was pretty much the worst time to do that.

"I was just missing. I thought I had a couple good pitches there but checked the video and the umpire made some good calls. I was just missing, and it was good takes on their part."

That was the Reds' plan.

"We were taking a lot of pitches, but most of them were breaking balls," Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said. "That's not what you want to hit early in the count. He had that real slow breaking ball, which is hard to time. Then he lost command of the strike zone that one inning and walked three guys. The next thing you know, Hanigan's double.

"Our game plan was to try to make him get the ball up," Baker said. "[Germano] threw some quality, quality breaking balls early in the game."

Sveum felt the Reds had a better feel for Germano in the sixth.

"You've got three quality, veteran hitters, and that was their third time [against him] and I think they waited him out," Sveum said of Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick and Jay Bruce. "Hanigan put a nice swing on the ball that changed the whole game around."

Barney seems to have changed his second half around. The second baseman is batting .375 in September, a big turnaround from last year, when he batted .244 in the last month of the season. Sveum credited Barney for making adjustments when needed.

"I've been working hard all year to find an approach I'm comfortable with at the plate," Barney said. "We're still working on that and still trying to get to that point where we know exactly what I'm trying to do in the offseason. It's nice to produce. Hopefully, we can keep stealing some games from some guys."

The Cubs' magic number is five. They need five more wins to avoid a 100-loss season. That's more pressing than playing the role of spoiler.

"Going out there every day for us is a battle," Sveum said. "These guys are trying to stay away from 100 losses, and that's their goal. The Cincinnati Reds, mathematically, they have [the division] locked up. ... These guys are just trying to stay away from 100 losses, and there's a lot of pride in that."

There's a chance the Reds could clinch the division by completing a sweep Thursday at Wrigley Field, although they'd need the Cardinals to lose their last two games against the Astros.

"We have to take care of business," Barney said. "Let's worry about tomorrow and win a game. Whether they clinch here or not, that's none of our concern. Our concern is winning games."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.