Reds play power ball

If Cincinnati is looking for a motto for its 2006 club, it may want to borrow the tagline of pro golfer John Daly.

"Grip it and rip it."

The Reds play defense like the ball had a contagious disease and their pitching staff is as suspect as a Las Vegas lounge act. But when it comes to hitting baseballs into the stratosphere, Adam Dunn and the Reds have no peers.

Dunn and Felipe Lopez pounded home runs off Cubs pitching in Thursday's 8-3 romp, helping the Reds take two of three from a Cubs team that still was experiencing the afterglow of its sweep of St. Louis.

While the Cubs won four of six on the homestand, they lost their momentum against a team that a contender should be able to handle at home.

"I don't think we should be satisfied," Derrek Lee said. "We played decently, but we kind of let down after the big St. Louis series. Sometimes that happens, but … it will catch up to you in the end. … We had a lot of focus in that St. Louis series. In this series, we just made some mental mistakes, too many mental mistakes."

Carlos Zambrano was his own worst enemy early on, but the Cubs still had a chance to come back, trailing 5-1 in the fifth. Manager Dusty Baker opted to let Zambrano bat for himself with a man on first and no outs, with the idea being Zambrano could put down a sacrifice bunt.

After trying to hit every pitch onto Waveland Avenue during batting practice, Zambrano failed to lay down a sacrifice. But after two failed attempts he swung at an outside pitch and awkwardly managed to ground one up the middle for a single. Juan Pierre bunted the runners over before Jerry Hairston popped out to left for the second out.

"Today, none of their pitchers really gave in," Hairston said. "Eric Milton was throwing three pitches for strikes and spotting his fastball. This was the toughest I've seen him."

With two outs and first base open after Hairston's at-bat, the decision to walk Lee was an easy one for Cincinnati manager Jerry Narron. He put the load on the shoulders of Matt Murton, who replaced the injured Aramis Ramirez as clean-up man.

Before the game, Baker had warned Murton about such an occasion.

"I told him the same thing they told me when I hit behind Hank Aaron as a kid," Baker said. "Get your hits, and if they walk somebody to get to you, don't take it personally. … Just kill them with singles and doubles and they'll quit walking those guys to get to you. Don't try to hit a home run just because they walked somebody. It's counterproductive. That's what they try to do, play on your emotions."

Taking Baker's words to heart, Murton hit a sharp single to left, scoring Henry Blanco and Zambrano, who had been held up until Dunn bobbled the ball in left on the pickup.

But the Cubs rally ended there when Angel Pagan popped out to end the inning. Austin Kearns put the game out of reach two innings later with a three-run homer on Bob Howry's first pitch to give Cincinnati an 8-3 lead.