Reds hold Cubs off this time

Tribune staff reporter

Reds starter Aaron Harang hung the Cubs out to dry Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, while the Astros did the Cubs no favors by putting a couple of rookies into their rotation for their series with the Brewers.

While Harang limited the Cubs to two runs over seven innings in the Reds' 5-2 victory, Astros rookie Felipe Paulino fell apart in his first major league start as the Brewers trounced the Astros to move into a first-place tie with the Cubs in the National League Central.

Houston made the switch to Paulino and rookie Juan Gutierrez, replacing veterans Roy Oswalt and Woody Williams. Oswalt's wife is having a baby and he asked for the time off.

"That ticks us off," outfielder Cliff Floyd said. "You can't help family situations. I had one this year, and Oswalt is having a kid. God bless him and his family. I don't understand the Woody Williams deal, but at the same time, I'm not going to question [Astros manager] Cecil Cooper's decision to start a rookie. It's their team, and they can do what they want to do.

"At the same time, you'd like everybody to play their guys. Cincinnati was eliminated from the wild-card race [Monday], and they're playing their hearts out, and that's what you want everybody to do. I don't think when we go to Cincinnati, they'll say, 'Hey, you all need to win, so we'll sit [Adam] Dunn, [Ken] Griffey and [Edwin] Encarnacion.' "

Manager Lou Piniella didn't want to get into any controversy when asked about the Astros' version of rotation roulette before the game.

"I don't have any comment about that," he said. "Maybe this kid Paulino will pitch a great ballgame. Leave it at that."

Paulino allowed five fourth-inning runs to get the loss.

Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano wasn't up to snuff either Tuesday, coming out and looking "a little fidgety," in the words of Piniella.

Pitching on three days' rest, Zambrano (16-13) allowed four runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings, striking out only one hitter. He labored early, throwing 75 pitches over the first four innings and 100 for the night.

Did the three-day rest hurt him?

"I don't know," Piniella said. "I thought he settled down and was throwing the ball well until he gave up the home run [in the sixth to Encarnacion]."

Cincinnati scored two first-inning runs off Zambrano. Norris Hopper reached on an infield hit leading off before Zambrano plunked Jeff Keppinger.

Brandon Phillips singled home a run to give the Reds the lead, and though Keppinger was caught in a rundown between second and third, it took the Cubs several throws to record the out as Phillips advanced to second.

After Dunn walked, Encarnacion singled to right to bring home the second run.

Trailing 3-0 in the fourth, the Cubs came back on Jacque Jones' two-run single off Harang. But they were shut down on four hits and no runs over the final five innings by Harang and relievers Jared Burton and David Weathers, while Will Ohman and Kerry Wood combined to give up a run on two hits and two walks in the eighth.

Tuesday was the 22nd day of a 24-games-in-23-days stretch that is the result of the rainout against the Cardinals and the makeup of the April game postponed by the death of Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock.

Is the fatigue factor finally settling in?

"Maybe," shortstop Ryan Theriot said. "But I think with the adrenaline you don't feel it. … We're at a point now where I don't think fatigue really plays into it at all. I know for me it doesn't. … I can't speak for everybody else."

Piniella said it was just a matter of losing to a tough pitcher in Harang.

"You're not going to win every game," he said. "If Milwaukee wins every game the rest of the way, they're going to win. It's plain and simple."

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