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Cubs' woes? Blame it on Rijo, poor `D'
Jose Rijo summoned shortstop Wilton Guerrero to the mound before Sunday's game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
"I told him to come over and pray a little for me. Thank the Man [for making] this all possible," said Rijo, the 36-year-old Cincinnati pitcher who made his first major-league start since July 18, 1995.
Rijo went on to pitch five strong innings, allowing three singles and one unearned run. He struck out one and walked one as the Reds held on to win 5-3 on another cold and raw day.
The Cubs fell into last place in the NL Central after dropping two of three to the Reds.
"To be 37 (on May 13), out of the game seven years, and come out here and beat Sammy Sosa and Fred McGriff is amazing," said Rijo, the 1990 World Series MVP who had undergone five elbow surgeries in the last seven years. "God bless America. Whoever said this is not a land of opportunity, tell them to come see me."
Said Reds manager Bob Boone: "I'm tickled for him. I'm tickled for us too."
In a repeat of Saturday's script, the Reds scored three runs in the first inning, two of which were unearned. Cubs starter Juan Cruz (0-4) opened the game by walking Juan Encarnacion.
Guerrero attempted a sacrifice bunt, but Cubs catcher Robert Machado pounced on the ball and threw it into the right-field corner, leaving runners at first and third. Sean Casey was retired on a groundout to third before Adam Dunn cleared the bases with a triple to right. Aaron Boone hit a sacrifice fly to score Dunn.
Cruz has been touched for 10 unearned runs this season.
Reds right fielder Austin Kearns crushed his first career home run onto Waveland Avenue to lead off the second inning for a 4-0 lead.
"Young pitchers start pressing," said Cubs manager Don Baylor.
The Cubs tallied an unearned run in the fourth inning when Guerrero allowed a ground ball hit by Chris Stynes to go through his legs. Sosa scored from third on the error. Mark Bellhorn drove in the Cubs' second run with a double in the seventh inning.
The Cubs committed three errors--two by Machado and one by Bellhorn at third.
"It's the little things we're not doing that are keeping us from winning games," said Machado. "It's a team thing."
"Every time we make mistakes defensively, they take advantage of it," said Baylor, whose team fell to 6-11 and dropped percentage points behind the Milwaukee Brewers for last in the Central Division. "Defense has to be addressed. We had three bad throws in the ballgame."
Reds reliever Danny Graves allowed a run in the ninth but earned his sixth save in eight tries to preserve the victory for Rijo.
Rijo's last win came against the Cubs on July 13, 1995, when the Reds won 11-5 at Wrigley Field. He was out of baseball from 1996 until last year.
"I thought it would be much colder out there today," said Rijo, who threw 89 pitches, 56 for strikes. "It was hot (42 degrees with a windchill factor of 34 degrees); it felt so good.
"For seven years, this was all I dreamed about."
Captions: PHOTO (color): The Reds' Austin Kearns upends Cubs catcher Robert Machado while scoring in the ninth inning Sunday when the throw to the plate by second baseman Delino DeShields was high. Tribune photo by Phil Velasquez.