Spring Struggles Carry Over in Loss

CINCINNATI – Glendon Rusch had hoped his Spring Training struggles wouldn't boil over into the regular season. That was not the case Wednesday as Rusch gave up four runs in only four innings, allowing two home runs as part of an 8-6 loss to the Reds at Great American Ballpark.

Rusch (0-1) was lifted after throwing 85 pitches, only 46 of which were for strikes. He allowed six hits and walked two. The Cubs got off to a promising start as Aramis Ramirez yanked a two-run homer down the left field line in the first inning to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.

But Reds starter Bronson Arroyo, who accounted for one of three Cincinnati home runs on the afternoon and was the winning pitcher, retired 10 straight from the second inning through the fifth while the Reds offense built a 7-2 lead off Rusch and reliever Jerome Williams.

In the fifth, Williams loaded the bases and allowed three runs while walking three. Michael Barrett had nothing short of a disastrous afternoon behind the plate and was charged with a passed ball, which led to the third and final tally of the inning.

With no lead ever safe at the Reds' hitter-friendly park, Derrek Lee smoked a sixth-inning, two-run homer to left-center that brought the Cubs back at 7-4. John Mabry pinch-hit a two-run shot to straight away center the following inning off the Reds bullpen to make it 7-6.

In the eighth, Scott Williamson was charged an unearned insurance run due in large part to an errant throw from Barrett that ended up in center field and allowed Ryan Freel to go from first to third on a pickoff attempt.

Ramirez and Barrett each hit warning track shots in the eighth and ninth innings only to come up a few feet shy.

The Cubs split the two-game series after winning Monday's opener, 16-7. They have not started a season 2-0 since 1995, when they swept the Reds in the first two games of a strike-shortened season at Riverfront Stadium. The Cubs went on to finish 73-71 under first-year manager Jim Riggleman, placing third in the division behind Cincinnati and Houston.

The Cubs have Thursday off before hosting the Cardinals in their home opener Friday at 1:20 p.m. CDT. Greg Maddux is scheduled to make his 2006 debut against St. Louis' Jeff Suppan. The game can be seen on WGN starting with a half-hour pre-game show at 12:30 p.m.

E-mail Steve Holley: staff@insidetheivy.com.


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