Struggling to drive in runners in scoring position, the Chicago Cubs also had a tough time stopping the Cincinnati Reds from scoring with two outs.
The Cubs came in last in the majors in hitting with runners in scoring position at .167, but finally bunched hits together and scored three times in the ninth against Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman before falling short in a 6-5 loss to the Reds on Friday.
"Those are some great at bats today against obviously the best closer in the game," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "There's a lot of adjustments with (his) velocity.
"Hopefully we can learn from that, too. Instead of waiting until a guy throws 98, we need to make those adjustments when a guy throws 94. But those are some really, really good at bats."
The Cubs had gone 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position in a loss to San Diego on Thursday and started 0 for 4 in such situations against Cincinnati before breaking through. Still, they left 12 runners on base.
"We didn't do much in the first eight innings again, though," Sveum said "We left some guys out there again.
"And obviously they added on a couple there, one they added on without a hit the one inning. Those are the things that will come back and haunt you at the end of a game."
Jay Bruce had two RBIs and scored a run, Shin-Soo Choo drove in a run and scored twice, and the Reds scored five times with two outs.
"The team that gets the two-out hits is the team that wins the games," Reds manager Dusty Baker said after the Reds improved to 4-10 on the road. "Those are big, big clutch hits when you get two out.
"We had some guys swing the bat pretty good today."
Chapman allowed three straight hits to open the ninth inning, then got two outs before giving up a bases-loaded walk to Nate Schierholtz and a two-run single to Welington Castillo as the Cubs pulled within one. After pinch-hitter Cody Ransom drew a walk to load the bases again, J.J. Hoover replaced Chapman and got his first save by getting Darwin Barney to strike out on a foul tip.
"You kind of train yourself for that as a reliever," Hoover said. "All of these (relievers) can handle that stituation. Thats what makes us a good staff."
Mike Leake (2-1) gave up two runs and nine hits in 5 2-3 innings, earned his fourth straight decision over the Cubs with help from five relievers.
"He was OK, today," Cubs shorstop Starlin Castro said. "He's a pretty good pitcher, but nothing special. He got outs, but we'll get him next time."
Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart also had run-scoring hits to help the Reds hand Carlos Villanueva (1-2) the loss.
Leake cruised into the sixth with a 4-0 lead before giving up a consecutive one-out doubles to Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano, and an RBI single to Schierholtz. Leake was replaced one out later after giving up a single to Luis Valbuena that put runners at first and third. Reliever Sam Lecure got Barney on a pop up to second base to end the inning.
Trailing 5-2 in the seventh, the Cubs loaded the bases with one out before reliever Sean Marshall struck out Soriano on a 3-2 pitch in the dirt and got Schierholtz to ground out to second.
Cincinnati chased Villanueva with two out in the sixth after RBI doubles by Bruce and Mesoraco for a 4-0 lead. Michael Bowden relieved Villanueva and ended the threat, but Cincinnati tacked on single runs on Bruce's RBI grounder in the seventh against Bowden and Cozart's run-scoring single in the eighth against Kameron Loe.
"In my last two starts, I'm one pitch away from two quality outings," Villanueva said. "You know, the good part is I'm close to where I want to be. I'm just not putting that guy away when I need to."
Cincinnati broke on top in the first on Joey Votto's single and Frazier's run-scoring double to deep center. Xavier Paul led off the second with a double off Villanueva and scored on Choo's two-out single.