- Doug Padilla, Chicago White Sox beat reporter
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CHICAGO – A late Cubs rally was for naught Wednesday as the Reds won 6-5 in 11 innings to reduce their magic number to three for clinching the National League Central title.
HOW IT HAPPENED: A windy night proved costly to the Cubs, but not because of the long ball. David DeJesus misplayed a popup to shallow right field with two outs in the 11th inning as it was blown over his head and Drew Stubbs followed with a go-ahead RBI single. Welington Castillo had a bases-loaded walk in the eighth inning to tie the game, but struck out with one out and the game-winning run at third base in the 10th inning. The Reds built an early 4-0 lead helped by three early RBIs from Joey Votto. Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run home run for the Cubs in the sixth inning and Luis Valbuena followed with an RBI double. The Cubs showed some offense after scoring just one run in the previous two games.
WHAT IT MEANS: Soriano reached the 30-homer mark for the sixth time in his career and second time since joining the Cubs in 2007. In addition, Soriano reached the 30-homer/100-RBI plateaus in the same season for the third time. He also became just the second player in major league history to have at least 30 home runs after not hitting one in his team’s first 30 games. The Red Sox’s Dwight Evans also did it in 1982.
OUTSIDE THE BOX: The middle of the Cubs order was finally clicking again. Starlin Castro had four hits from the No. 5 spot, while No. 3 hitter Anthony Rizzo had two hits to compliment Soriano’s two-run home run from the cleanup spot. Rizzo, Soriano and Castro each scored at least one run to go along with their seven hits. Rizzo has delivered multiple hits in three of his last five games.
OFF BEAT: The positive was Luis Valbuena’s two-out double in the sixth inning that brought the Cubs within a run. The negative came moments later while leading off from second base and taking his eyes off the action to remove his batting gloves. Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips snuck in behind Valbuena, who was picked off to end the inning and the Cubs’ rally.
UP NEXT: The Cubs will send right-hander Jason Berken (0-1, 7.20 ERA) to the mound Thursday against Cincinnati in the final game of the three-game series. The Reds will counter with right-hander Johnny Cueto (17-9, 2.92) in the 1:20 p.m. start from Wrigley Field.