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Raley shows progress in second start

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs just wanted Brooks Raley to be better. Nobody said anything about being perfect.

Yet for the first 4 1/3 innings Sunday Raley was indeed perfect, retiring 13 consecutive batters until he was ultimately pushed around a bit in the fifth inning. Jay Bruce hit a two-run home run for the Reds in the fifth and Ryan Ludwick followed with a solo shot in the sixth inning as the Cubs fell 5-0.

Overall, though, it was an impressive outing from the rookie left-hander, who was making just his second career start and first at Wrigley Field. Raley struggled in his major league debut Tuesday at San Diego when he was first derailed by some bad luck but then went on to give up seven runs on eight hits in four innings.

“Obviously the five days between starts gave me a chance to watch the older guys and see what they do and you try to learn from it,” Raley said. “I guess the biggest thing I saw from everybody else starting was throwing strike one and getting ahead of the count and keeping the ball down.”

Raley was then asked to confirm that there really are older guys here.

“Yeah, not many, but watching (Jeff Samardzija throw well and (Chris Volstad and (Travis Wood, when you keep the ball down, good things happen,” he said.

Surprisingly, pitching hasn’t been the problem since Paul Maholm and Ryan Dempster were traded and Matt Garza was placed on the disabled list. Outside of a few games over the past two weeks, the rotation has done its best to hold its own.

Raley will now be pointed toward a third start Saturday and will have to face the Reds all over again in Cincinnati.

“He had a couple of fly balls that went out that were not even hit that good,” manager Dale Sveum said. “He did a great job. He kept the ball down with his movement, had great command and a lot more life on his ball today. He did far and above what we needed out of him. He did a great job as well as the rest of the bullpen. They were efficient and did a great job.”

Raley lived on the outside part of the plate against right-hitters, saying that approach has brought him the most success. Just getting more experience should take him even further.

“I was just watching so many people keep the ball down in the zone across the whole plate really,” Raley said. “When you can get ahead in the count their batting averages go down. That’s been a point to get across.”