Ryan Dempster said his heart was pumping hard Friday night 20 minutes after the Cubs' 6-5 victory over the Reds.
The Cubs closer, pitching for the first time in a week, walked in one run and had the bases loaded with one out when Brandon Phillips smashed a line drive to Aramis Ramirez.
The third baseman made the catch then dove for the bag to try to double off David Ross to end the game, but the runner barely made it back safely.
With the bases still loaded and two outs, Ken Griffey Jr. grounded out to second baseman Tony Womack, who was positioned in short right field on an infield shift, to end the game.
"Mentally, I just didn't think I was very good [Friday night]," Dempster said. "Sometimes when you haven't pitched in a while, you just have to bear down and get back in the groove. It took me walking in a run to finally calm down. My heart's still going."
The Cubs snapped the Reds' eight-game winning streak in front of 41,064 fans at Great American Ball Park.
"It ain't never easy. But, dang, that was a tough one," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "We needed that game badly and we are due to win one of those."
Cubs starter Greg Maddux (7-5) was credited with his 325th career victory after going 51/3 innings and allowing two runs on four hits, including two homers. He was removed, in part, because of the drive Javier Valentin hit off his right heel in the third inning.
"I didn't like how he was throwing [in the sixth]," Baker said. "I don't know if his Achilles' (tendon) had anything to do with it."
Baker summoned Scott Eyre to take over when the Reds had runners on first and third with one out. Cubs catcher Henry Blanco then threw out Felipe Lopez trying to steal second.
"Henry was great [Friday night]," Baker said. "Lopez had a great jump. It was Henry's night."
After Griffey walked, Rich Aurilia popped out to second to end the threat.
"I thought [Blanco's] arm won this game for us more than his bat," Maddux said.
The Cubs led 2-0 in the second inning when Blanco, who entered the game with an .089 average, rapped a two-run double. The Reds cut the lead in half when Adam Dunn hit a two-out homer off Maddux in the bottom of the inning.
Blanco drove in his third run in the fourth with a sacrifice fly.
A Scott Hatteberg homer to lead off the fifth pulled the Reds to within 3-2. But the Cubs took control with a three-run seventh inning.
"We need to start winning more so that [Dempster] can pitch more," Maddux said. "He hasn't been out there for a long time."
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