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Despite having three hits, Reds defeat Cubs

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Sammy Sosa and the Chicago Cubs hit one ball
after another to the warning track, only to watch each chance get
snatched away.

Maybe the Cincinnati Reds' home-field luck has changed.

Sosa hit his second homer, but Fred McGriff's error set up two
Cincinnati runs and closer Danny Graves got some long fly outs as
the Reds held on for a 3-1 victory Thursday night.

The Reds took two of three in the opening series, a turnaround
for the majors' worst home team of 2001. The Reds lost two of their
first three at Cinergy Field last season, on their way to a
franchise-record 54 home losses.

They beat the Cubs on Thursday despite getting only three hits.
They also escaped one close call after another -- Sosa and two
others hit fly balls caught on the warning track.

"It's good to win two of three from anybody," said Ken Griffey
Jr., who had an RBI single. "We talked about that before the game.
We said, 'We have a chance to win a series here."'

It hung in the balance right to the end.

Jose Acevedo (1-0) limited the Cubs to five hits in six innings,
becoming the first Cincinnati starter to make it past the fifth
inning this season.

Graves pitched out of a two-on, one-out threat in the eighth,
getting McGriff to line out to right field and Roosevelt Brown to
strike out for the third time.

The Cubs put two more on base with none out in the ninth, but
Darren Lewis and Mark Bellhorn flied out to the warning track.
Delino DeShields grounded out to end a 3-hour, 19-minute game that
was the quickest of the series.

"I don't know what it is," said Graves, who got his first save
after blowing a chance in the opener. "If there's nobody on, I've
got to make it difficult and give some guys heart attacks."

The series included six plunkings. The benches and bullpens
cleared on Wednesday night after Reds reliever Luis Pineda hit two
Cubs in the ninth inning and was ejected.

Juan Cruz (0-1) threw a fastball that glanced off Griffey's
shoulder and batting helmet in the third, but no one raised a fuss.
Griffey went to first without complaint and didn't even look at
Cruz when they crossed paths after the inning.

Acevedo got the better of a matchup between two young starters
who got their first big league promotions last season. Both threw
hard on a cold night -- it was 43 degrees at the first pitch, and
players could see their breath.

Acevedo retired 10 in a row before Sosa reached out for a
down-and-away pitch and hit it into the Cubs' bullpen in right
field in the fourth inning. Both of his homers in the series went
to right field as the Reds tried to carefully pitch him away.

Sosa's 452nd career homer moved him into a tie with Carl
Yastrzemski for 24th place. Griffey is next with 460.

Griffey went 3-for-10 with two RBI and four strikeouts in the
series.

Sean Casey doubled off Cruz to start the Reds' second and
McGriff, playing close, let Aaron Boone's grounder skitter through
him, sending Casey home. Boone scored on Jason LaRue's two-out
double off the wall in left-center.

"I'm playing in on the grass and the one-hopper got on top of
me quick," McGriff said.

Manager Don Baylor and the trainer came out to the mound to look
at Cruz's pitching hand after he walked Boone on four pitches to
open the fourth. The trainer used a nail file on Cruz's finger in
the dugout between innings.

href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/profile?statsId=5700">Todd Walker walked in the fifth, advanced on Barry Larkin's
groundout and scored on Griffey's single to right off Cruz, who
gave up three hits and three runs -- only one earned -- in 4 2/3
innings.

Game notes
The Cubs claimed Mario Encarnacion off waivers from the
Colorado Rockies, giving them a backup outfielder. Infielder Julio
Zuleta was designated for assignment to open a spot on the 40-man
roster for Encarnacion, who failed to win a spot as the Rockies'
fifth outfielder during spring training. ... LF Moises Alou sat out
his third game with a strained right calf. ... The Cubs will play
their 87th Wrigley Field opener on Friday. They're 48-37-1 in home
openers. ... Acevedo's wild pitch in the first inning was the
fourth by Reds starters in three games. ... When Acevedo retired
the side in order in the second, it marked the first 1-2-3 inning
by a Reds starter in three games. The Reds' rotation pitched the
fewest innings in the majors last season.