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Reds complete three-game sweep of Cubs

CHICAGO (AP) -- Eric Milton gets sick to his stomach when he
thinks about the Cincinnati Reds' miserable first half.

The Chicago Cubs know all too well how he feels.

Milton allowed one run over seven innings to help the Reds rout
the Cubs 8-2 on Wednesday, sweeping a three-game set at Wrigley
Field and sending Chicago to its eighth straight loss.

"I've been frustrated," Milton said. "I would say I'm the
biggest reason we struggled in the first half. I really struggled.
It was something I hadn't experienced before."

There were no such problems on Wednesday. Ryan Freel homered on
the game's first pitch and the Reds scored seven in the fourth to
back a strong performance by Milton and win their eighth straight
road game -- their longest such streak since they won nine in a row
in April 2001.

Milton, who signed a $25.5 million, three-year contract in
December, has spent most of the season with an ERA hovering around
7.00. But he shut down the Cubs, who may be even more of a
disappointment this year.

Chicago, at 54-60, fell six games under .500 for the first time
this season. The Cubs also lost eight in a row approaching the
All-Star break -- they have not dropped nine straight since May
2002.

Meanwhile, the Reds have quietly played quality ball of late.
They're 25-19 since June 22, while the Cubs are 18-26 over the same
stretch.

Freel was 2-for-3, driving in three runs and scoring two before
leaving with a strained right quadriceps. He sent the first pitch
from Rich Hill (0-2) beyond the left-field bleachers for his third
homer of the season and first leadoff shot of his career. He added
a two-run single in the fourth.

Ken Griffey Jr. singled and doubled for the Reds.

Cincinnati broke it open in the fourth and tied a season high
for runs in an inning. Freel hit a two-run single and his teammates
drew three bases-loaded walks.

Milton (6-12) allowed four hits, striking out three and walking
one. After Michael Barrett's solo homer in the second, he retired
the next 15 batters.

"He looked like he was keeping hitters off balance," said
Freel, who is day to day. "The numbers don't really show what kind
of pitcher he is. He ran into a few bad games, which skyrocketed
his ERA."

"Seven runs in the fourth -- that can relax anybody," Cubs
manager Dusty Baker said. "There is nothing worse than facing a
relaxed pitcher. His ball is moving, he is getting strike one, he
can throw any pitch at any count."

After reaching the seventh inning for the third time in four
starts, Milton has a 6.48 ERA. He only threw 98 pitches, but
manager Jerry Narron said going for the complete game wasn't an
option.

"I just really thought that with the day he had ... it was best
to get him out of there," he said. "I just thought he pitched so
well, I [would rather not] mess it up on my part."

Kerry Wood pitched a scoreless ninth for the Cubs in his third
relief appearance this season.

Poor control doomed the Cubs, who walked 10 batters -- two below
their season-high.

Hill allowed six runs on four hits and four walks in three-plus
innings. He left after walking in two runs with no outs in the
fourth.

After allowing singles to Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns, Hill
walked Jason LaRue, Edwin Encarnacion and Milton to give the Reds a
3-1 lead. Michael Wuertz relieved, and the runs and walks continued
to mount.

Freel greeted him with a single and Griffey hit an RBI double
with one out. With two outs, LaRue drew a bases-loaded walk for an
8-1 lead.

In his last two starts, Hill has allowed 13 runs and 11 hits in
4 1/3 innings. That includes a seven-run outing in 1 1/3 innings
against the New York Mets on Friday.

Barrett tied it in the second when he hit his 12th homer, but
that was it.

Game notes
Recent Hall of Fame inductee Wade Boggs threw out the first
pitch to Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, then impersonated late
broadcaster Harry Caray while singing "Take Me Out to the Ball
Game" during the seventh-inning stretch. Boggs wore black-rimmed
glasses and gestured like Caray as he sang the tune. ... The Reds'
Rich Aurilia went 0-for-5, ending his six-game hitting streak. ...
Griffey Jr. was 6-for-15 with two homers in the series. ... The
seven runs tied the Reds' season high set in the ninth inning May
30 at Houston.