Sunday's series finale at Great American Ball Park provided a couple of rare feel-good moments for the struggling Chicago Cubs.
First, second baseman Alfonso Soriano hit a game-tying, two-run home run in the eighth. Then catcher Wellington Castillo completed the rally with an RBI double in the 10th, lifting the Cubs to a 5-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds before a sold-out crowd of 41,321 at Great American Ball Park.
Chicago (19-30) avoided a sweep in the three-game series while ending its six-game losing streak. Cincinnati (31-19) lost for the first time in five games.
"We had some good at-bats late in the game," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "We have to remember that. It seems like we're more aggressive, not swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. Soriano's home run was big of course but Wellington had a good at-bat."
Cincinnati had runners in scoring position in the ninth and 10th innings, but Kevin Gregg (1-0) shut the door to earn his first victory.
In the 10th, Scott Hairston walked with two outs against J.J. Hoover (0-4) and Castillo laced a double down the left-field line for the game-winner.
Jay Bruce hit his seventh home run for Cincinnati.
Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto pitched seven strong innings, giving up just one run on four hits in seven innings. He walked two with a season-low two strikeouts. Cueto exited after 106 pitches.
"We went as far as we could with Johnny," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He had outstanding stuff. That's Johnny. He was a little tentative last time out in New York. He was afraid to hurt something. He was a little more aggressive today."
Cubs starter Matt Garza allowed four runs in four innings. He walked four and struck out seven. Both Garza and Cueto were making their second starts since being reinstated from the disabled list.
Garza needed 26 pitches to get through the first inning. "Garza didn't have good command of anything," Sveum said. "When he did get the ball over it was a foul ball, which got his pitch count up."
Cueto issued one walk through three innings and did not allow a hit. The lone Cubs baserunner, Soriano, was caught stealing.
Chicago's first hit came with one out in the fourth when Castro doubled to left for just his fifth hit in 23 at-bats. Castro advanced to third on a groundout but was left stranded.
Garza had retired six straight when Bruce hit a line-drive homer to right field on an 0-1 pitch to put Cincinnati ahead 1-0 in the fourth. It was Bruce's sixth homer in his past 15 games.
Following Bruce's homer, Garza hit Todd Frazier and walked Xavier Paul with one out. Ryan Hanigan singled off centerfielder David DeJesus' glove. Frazier scored to put the Reds ahead, 2-0.
Garza intentionally walked Shin-Soo Choo to load the bases. Zack Cozart, who has hit safely in six of his past seven games, made them pay with a two-run double putting the Reds ahead, 4-0.
"They were fighting off pitches and getting my pitch count up," Garza said. "It wasn't a great outing for myself, but it was a great team win."
The Cubs had just one hit off Cueto through six innings before Soriano and Anthony Rizzo singled with one out in the seventh. Luis Valbeuna's two-out RBI single made the score 4-1.
"Sometimes that last out is the toughest to get," Baker said, who reiterated that primary setup man Jonathan Broxton and closer Aroldis Chapman weren't available to pitch Sunday after working two straight days.
"We had to turn it over to some other guys. They've got a job to do. This is how they make their money. This one got away. We'll start a new streak tomorrow. We've been playing good ball".
Rizzo doubled home Chicago's second run off Logan Ondrusek in the eighth. Soriano followed with a two-run home run on a 2-1 pitch, tying the score 4-4.
"We've got nothing to be upset about," Frazier said. "You felt like it was one of those games where something was going to happen. Can't win them all. We won the series. That's what we try to do every time out. Things like that are going to happen. We'll be fine".
NOTES: Bruce's homer was No. 141 of his career, tying him with Joey Votto for 17th on the Reds' all-time list. ... Frazier's triple in the fifth inning was his first this season. ... Sveum announced that Hairston will serve as the designated hitter Monday when they begin a two-game interleague series against the cross-town rival White Sox. Dioner Navarro will serve as the Cubs' DH on Tuesday. ... Cincinnati had won six consecutive games against the Cubs. ... The Beach Boys played a postgame concert at Great American Ball Park following Sunday's game.
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