LIVE: Cubs, Reds battling in extra innings

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LIVE: Cubs, Reds battling in extra innings

Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011
Posted: 9:13 a.m.

(AP) -- Randy Wells has been a consistent bright spot for the Chicago Cubs for more than a month.

The right-hander looks to win a sixth straight decision and help the Cubs salvage a split of their four-game road set with the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday night.

Wells (7-4, 4.73 ERA) was 2-4 with a 6.16 ERA in his first 12 starts, which were interrupted by a stint on the disabled list because of a right forearm strain. Since the beginning of August, however, he's 5-0 with a 3.02 ERA in eight starts, and he's allowed four runs in 28 2-3 innings while going 3-0 in his last four outings - all Cubs wins.

Wells allowed two runs in seven innings Saturday but did not factor in the decision in a 5-4 victory at New York.

"All I care about is if the team wins, that makes it a lot better," Wells told the Cubs' official website.

The only Chicago defeat during Wells' last eight starts came in his lone 2011 appearance versus Cincinnati (73-76). He yielded six runs and three homers in seven innings of an 8-7 loss Aug. 7.

He will try to help the Cubs (65-84) avoid a third consecutive defeat. They totaled three runs and 13 hits while losing the last two games after pounding out 16 hits during a 12-8 victory in Monday's series opener.

One night after his 13-game hitting streak was snapped, All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro went 2 for 3 in Wednesday's 7-2 loss to extend his streak of reaching base to 27 games. The NL leader with 192 hits, Castro has batted .432 (16 for 37) with eight RBIs in his last nine contests versus Cincinnati.

"Finishing strong is big," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "If we're going to do that, then individual players are going to have to finish strong."

Castro's only hit in four at-bats against scheduled Cincinnati starter Homer Bailey (8-7, 4.34) left the park. Bailey allowed four runs and walked three in six innings May 16 but still earned the win in the Reds' 7-4 home victory in his only 2011 start versus Chicago.

The right-hander was 0-2 with a 5.09 ERA in his previous four starts overall before working 7 2-3 innings of a 4-1 win at Colorado on Friday for his first victory since Aug. 13.

"When you're going out there and you're on the same page with your catcher and the game can flow really quick, good things are going to happen," Bailey said.

Ramon Hernandez hit a three-run homer and infielder Juan Francisco drove in two runs Wednesday as the Reds overcame a back injury to starting pitcher Johnny Cueto, who left the game in the fourth inning.

Trying to solidify a future in Cincinnati, Francisco is 4 for 12 with a homer and four RBIs in the series. He also turned in a defensive gem from third base Wednesday, throwing out Marlon Byrd from foul territory in the ninth inning.

"You practice that every day," Francisco said. "I watch Scott Rolen."

Cincinnati has won six of eight versus Chicago this season at Great American Ball Park.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base

LOS ANGELES – The Cubs drafted and developed Ian Happ with the idea of turning him into a Ben Zobrist-type player who would move quickly through the farm system and surface as a versatile big-league contributor and/or legitimate trade chip.

With Zobrist sidelined because of a sore left wrist, the Cubs got their first look at Happ playing second base in The Show during Saturday’s 5-0 loss at Dodger Stadium. That kind of depth – plugging in a 2015 first-round pick while a World Series MVP rests – should ultimately propel the Cubs over the course of a 162-game season.

Even as the Cubs stutter-step through a 25-23 start, there are enough choices for the best defensive second baseman on the team and a National League Championship Series co-MVP (Javier Baez) to sit on the bench.

“We know that the talent’s there,” Zobrist said. “It’s not like having any one or two guys out of the lineup is a big drop-off for us because of the talent that’s there. And we know that just because we have a lot of young players doesn’t mean that they’re not extremely capable of doing the job as well.”

Zobrist – who’s reached base in 23 straight games and emerged as a new leadoff option with Kyle Schwarber struggling – felt something on an awkward swing in the first inning of Friday’s 4-0 loss to the Dodgers. Zobrist played through it that night and called it a “day-to-day thing” that didn’t require an MRI.

[MORE: Is Joe Maddon turning Kyle Schwarber into a platoon player?

Facing Clayton Kershaw on Sunday after back-to-back shutouts will be a game-time decision.

“It’s tough,” Zobrist said. “We just haven’t strung together enough quality at-bats to score runs the last two games. It’s not just because of us. They’ve pitched well. Their pitchers are pretty hot right now. They’ve spotted up. They’ve gotten early strikes where they needed to and then gone to work pretty well on us.

“The task doesn’t get any easier tomorrow with Kershaw. We just got to keep trying to chip away.”

Preview: Cubs look to avoid getting swept by Dodgers today on CSN

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Preview: Cubs look to avoid getting swept by Dodgers today on CSN

The Cubs take on the Los Angeles Dodgers today, and you can catch all the action on CSN and live streaming on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Ryan Dempster. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (3-2, 3.19 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (7-2, 2.01 ERA)

Click here for more stats to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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