Taking wind out of Reds

Chicago CubsSportsBaseballAlex GonzalezSpring TrainingPaul BakoWrigley Field

During spring training, Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins talked to Cubs pitchers about throwing in the windy conditions of Wrigley Field. His message: Take the elements out of your thinking, pitching, managing and every other part of the game.

Left-hander Shawn Estes (1-1) heeded the Cubs great's advice Tuesday, taking the gusting 20 m.p.h. wind out of the game and the advantage away from the Cincinnati bats. Estes scattered five hits over eight innings while six teammates were collecting at least two hits each on the way to an 11-1 mauling of the Reds.

The win keeps the Cubs challenging for the lead in the NL Central, where "you want to establish division superiority if you can," manager Dusty Baker said. "Somebody's going to do it and it might as well be us."

Sammy Sosa and Hee Seop Choi each hit his second homer of the season and Mark Bellhorn his first as the Cubs scored all their runs in the middle three innings. For the second time this season they scored six earned runs off Danny Graves (0-2) in five innings.

Estes held the Reds hitless through five innings and used a cut fastball and low control to coax Cincinnati into 14 ground-ball outs and four strikeouts.

"I didn't really take the wind into account," Estes said. "You can't or you'll psych yourself out."

Catcher Paul Bako credited his aggressiveness, especially "down in the strike zone."

Estes did not allow a hit until Kelly Stinnett led off the sixth with a double to center. He lost his shutout in the seventh when Sean Casey singled, took second unchallenged and third on an infield out before scoring on Ruben Mateo's single.

It didn't matter, not after what the Cubs were doing to Graves. After a critical inning-ending double play with two on to end the Cincinnati fourth, the Cubs put their first six batters on in their half of the inning, scoring four runs before the first out. Before the onslaught was over, 14 of 18 Cubs batters reached base over two innings.

"That was a big inning for me," Estes said, referring to getting home run leader Austin Kearns to hit into a double play. "Then our bats came alive, and that really made my job a lot easier."

Sosa began the damage with a wind-aided fly into the right-center bleachers. Troy O'Leary collected his first hit of the season on a shot to left, Choi walked and Ramon Martinez singled to load the bases.

Bellhorn then drove in O'Leary and Choi with a single to right. Martinez came across when left fielder Adam Dunn dropped Bako's short fly to left-center for an error, with Bako getting credit for an RBI on the assumed sacrifice fly.

After Estes failed to sacrifice, Corey Patterson drove a double into the left-field corner to score Bellhorn for the fifth run of the inning.

After Choi opened the fifth with a single, Ramirez doubled him home for the Cubs' sixth run and then scored himself on a two-out Patterson single. Alex Gonzalez reached when third baseman Brandon Larson had trouble digging the ball out of his glove and threw wide to first.

Sosa then ran the lead to 9-0 by driving in Patterson and Estes with his second double of the game, a shot that put him on base for the fourth straight time.

Choi put the Cubs in double figures with a prodigious opposite-field blast to left-center that carried onto Waveland Avenue. Bellhorn, beginning to find his stroke after a wobbly start this season, smashed his first home run of the season into the low rows in right-center, his second hit of the game.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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