Final in 5

Series: Game 1 of 4

Cincinnati leads 1-0 (as of 9/22)

Game 1: Friday, September 22
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in 5
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Game 2: Saturday, September 23
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Cincinnati4
Game 3: Sunday, September 24
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Game 4: Monday, September 25
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Cubs 2

(62-92, 29-49 away)

Reds 4

(75-78, 40-38 home)

    7:10 PM ET, September 22, 2006

    Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, Ohio 

    123456789 R H E
    CHC 11000 - - - - 2 - -
    CIN 00121 - - - - 4 - -

    W: C. Michalak (2-3)

    L: R. Hill (6-7)

    S: T. Coffey (8)

    Encarnacion, Reds pull tarp over Cubs in five-inning win

    CINCINNATI (AP) -- Chris Michalak didn't realize he got the win. Norris Hopper got teased by teammates that his homer wasn't going to count.

    The only thing the Cincinnati Reds were sure about was the weather forecast.

    Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run homer -- one of three off left-hander Rich Hill -- and the Reds opened their final home series of the season Friday night with a rain-shortened 4-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

    The tarp was brought out after the fifth inning amid heavy rain and lightning. The game was called after a 90-minute wait, with much more rain in the forecast.

    "They told us once the rain started, it wasn't going to stop," manager Jerry Narron said.

    Knowing the forecast, he brought setup man Todd Coffey into the game in the fifth inning to escape a two-on, one-out threat. Michalak (2-3) got the victory under baseball's rules for rain-shortened games, but didn't realize it until after it was called.

    "I didn't know until they told me about five minutes ago," Michalak said. "They explained the rule to me, and I said, 'I'll take it."

    There was also a little intrigue about Hopper's first career homer, a solo shot off Hill (6-7) after the rain had started in the third inning. His teammates teased that it was going to get wiped out by the weather.

    "He was about crying in the dugout that it wasn't a legal game, and I told him there's no crying in baseball," second baseman Juan Castro said.

    It counted, as did a pinch-hit homer by Brendan Harris in the bottom of the fifth.

    Hill pitched his first career shutout against the Reds last Saturday at Wrigley Field, giving up only two hits in a 4-0 win. He wasn't nearly as good in the rematch. He struck out 10 and gave up only four hits, but three of them were homers.

    "I went inside a little too much and got burned," he said. "I don't think I threw the ball bad. I just made a few mistakes."

    At Great American Ball Park, a mistake can easily become a homer. A total of 235 have been hit there this season, most in the majors.

    "The home run got him tonight," manager Dusty Baker said. "This ballpark is prone to giving up homers. Some of those balls weren't blasted, they barely made it out."

    Since moving to within a percentage point of first place in the NL Central on Aug. 24, the Reds have gone into an 8-17 nosedive that knocked them out of contention and put them in line for a sixth straight losing season.

    The Reds began looking to next season by moving second baseman Brandon Phillips to shortstop on Friday. Phillips will play there the rest of the season, an audition for next year. In his first career start at shortstop, Phillips handled both of his chances flawlessly.

    With the Reds up 3-2 and runners on second and third, Matt Murton hit a grounder that Phillips fielded cleanly. He threw to first for the final out of the inning, putting Coffey in line for his eighth save in 12 chances.

    "I just want to have a job," said Phillips, who played mostly shortstop in the Indians organization. "If everything doesn't work out at shortstop, I can play second base. If everything works out, I'd love to play shortstop."

    Henry Blanco hit a solo homer off Michalak, who gave up four hits and a pair of walks in 4 1/3 innings. The Reds also had a pair of errors, one of them leading to an unearned run.

    The loss dropped Chicago to 62-92. The Cubs have been as many as 31 games under .500 in another disappointing season. Their $94.8 million payroll on opening day was the third-biggest in the NL, trailing the Mets and Dodgers.

    This will go down as their third 90-loss season in seven years. They lost 95 games in 2002 and 97 in 2000.

    Game notes


    CF Juan Pierre stole his 54th base, the most by a Cubs player since Eric Young stole 54 in 2000. The club record is 67 steals by Frank Chance in 1903. ... Ken Griffey Jr. was out of Cincinnati's lineup for the 15th consecutive game since dislocating a toe. ... LHP Eric Milton had arthroscopic surgery to clean out his left elbow. He's expected to be fully recovered by spring training. ... Bench coach Bucky Dent coached third base, filling in for the ailing Mark Berry, who was hit on the left leg by a foul ball in Chicago last weekend and developed an infection.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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