Castro Leads Cubs Over Reds

Chicago 12, Cincinnati 8

Starlin Castro homered, scored four runs and drove in three while extending his career-high hitting streak to 13 games and leading the Chicago Cubs to a 12-8 win over the Cincinnati Reds in the opener of a four-game series on Monday.

Aramis Ramirez also had three hits, including a double and his 25th homer of the season, and Jeff Baker added a home run as the Cubs won a third consecutive game for the first time since Aug. 15 and matched their season high in runs. They also scored 12 in a 12-7 win over Milwaukee on June 16.

Brandon Phillips hit two of Cincinnati's four home runs and Juan Francisco hit a tape-measure shot, but the Reds couldn't avoid their third consecutive loss and fourth in five games.

Rodrigo Lopez lasted 5 1-3 innings to earn the win despite allowing nine hits, including all four of Cincinnati's homers, and five runs. Lopez (5-6) had a walk and a strikeout.

The Cubs pounced on Cincinnati starter Dontrelle Willis for three first-inning runs and knocked him out of the game in the fourth. Willis (0-6) gave up for nine hits and eight runs, one short of tying his career high, and walked three.

Francisco got the Reds on the board with his third homer of the season, a mammoth drive off of Lopez's 1-0 pitch in the second inning. The 502-foot shot is second-longest at Great American Ball Park since it opened in 2003 to Adam Dunn's 535-foot shot to right-center in 2004.

Willis followed one out later with a vicious line-drive single off of Baker's glove at first base, and Brandon Phillips -- who got his first day off on Sunday since Aug. 13 -- hit his 13th homer, a 459-foot shot into the second deck in left field.

The Cubs regained the lead in the third on Baker's third homer of the season, a 372-foot opposite-field drive into the second row of the right-field seats. They broke the game open with three runs in the fourth, the first scoring on the first of Castro's two doubles in the game. He added a two-run homer in the fifth, and Ramirez led off the sixth with his 25th homer of the season.

Phillips led off the Reds' fifth with his second homer of the game, giving him two multi-homer games this season and eight in his career, and rookie catcher Devin Mesoraco hit the first pitch of the sixth inning into the left field seats for his first career home run.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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