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Encarnacion, Reds pull tarp over Cubs in five-inning win

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Chris Michalak didn't realize he got the win.
Norris Hopper got teased by teammates that his homer wasn't going
to count.

The only thing the Cincinnati Reds were sure about was the
weather forecast.

Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run homer -- one of three off
left-hander Rich Hill -- and the Reds opened their final home series
of the season Friday night with a rain-shortened 4-2 victory over
the Chicago Cubs.

The tarp was brought out after the fifth inning amid heavy rain
and lightning. The game was called after a 90-minute wait, with
much more rain in the forecast.

"They told us once the rain started, it wasn't going to stop,"
manager Jerry Narron said.

Knowing the forecast, he brought setup man Todd Coffey into the
game in the fifth inning to escape a two-on, one-out threat.
Michalak (2-3) got the victory under baseball's rules for
rain-shortened games, but didn't realize it until after it was
called.

"I didn't know until they told me about five minutes ago,"
Michalak said. "They explained the rule to me, and I said, 'I'll
take it."

There was also a little intrigue about Hopper's first career
homer, a solo shot off Hill (6-7) after the rain had started in the
third inning. His teammates teased that it was going to get wiped
out by the weather.

"He was about crying in the dugout that it wasn't a legal game,
and I told him there's no crying in baseball," second baseman Juan
Castro said.

It counted, as did a pinch-hit homer by Brendan Harris in the
bottom of the fifth.

Hill pitched his first career shutout against the Reds last
Saturday at Wrigley Field, giving up only two hits in a 4-0 win. He
wasn't nearly as good in the rematch. He struck out 10 and gave up
only four hits, but three of them were homers.

"I went inside a little too much and got burned," he said. "I
don't think I threw the ball bad. I just made a few mistakes."

At Great American Ball Park, a mistake can easily become a
homer. A total of 235 have been hit there this season, most in the
majors.

"The home run got him tonight," manager Dusty Baker said.
"This ballpark is prone to giving up homers. Some of those balls
weren't blasted, they barely made it out."

Since moving to within a percentage point of first place in the
NL Central on Aug. 24, the Reds have gone into an 8-17 nosedive
that knocked them out of contention and put them in line for a
sixth straight losing season.

The Reds began looking to next season by moving second baseman
Brandon Phillips to shortstop on Friday. Phillips will play there
the rest of the season, an audition for next year. In his first
career start at shortstop, Phillips handled both of his chances
flawlessly.

With the Reds up 3-2 and runners on second and third, Matt
Murton hit a grounder that Phillips fielded cleanly. He threw to
first for the final out of the inning, putting Coffey in line for
his eighth save in 12 chances.

"I just want to have a job," said Phillips, who played mostly
shortstop in the Indians organization. "If everything doesn't work
out at shortstop, I can play second base. If everything works out,
I'd love to play shortstop."

Henry Blanco hit a solo homer off Michalak, who gave up four
hits and a pair of walks in 4 1/3 innings. The Reds also had a pair
of errors, one of them leading to an unearned run.

The loss dropped Chicago to 62-92. The Cubs have been as many as
31 games under .500 in another disappointing season. Their $94.8
million payroll on opening day was the third-biggest in the NL,
trailing the Mets and Dodgers.

This will go down as their third 90-loss season in seven years.
They lost 95 games in 2002 and 97 in 2000.

Game notes
CF Juan Pierre stole his 54th base, the most by a Cubs
player since Eric Young stole 54 in 2000. The club record is 67
steals by Frank Chance in 1903. ... Ken Griffey Jr. was out of
Cincinnati's lineup for the 15th consecutive game since dislocating
a toe. ... LHP Eric Milton had arthroscopic surgery to clean out
his left elbow. He's expected to be fully recovered by spring
training. ... Bench coach Bucky Dent coached third base, filling in
for the ailing Mark Berry, who was hit on the left leg by a foul
ball in Chicago last weekend and developed an infection.