Two pitches send Cubs to loss

Two pitches send Cubs to loss

CHICAGO -- If Greg Maddux is going to win 15 games this year, he's got to win his next three starts.

Javier Valentin and Wily Mo Pena hit back-to-back homers on consecutive pitches to help lift the Cincinnati Reds to a 5-2 victory over Maddux and the Chicago Cubs Monday night. Pena added a three-run homer in the ninth off Sergio Mitre for his seventh career two-homer game and fourth this year.

Maddux (12-12) took the loss, serving up two runs on five hits over seven innings while striking out five. The veteran is vying to become the first pitcher to win at least 15 games in 18 consecutive seasons, and has three starts remaining.

"You can't control the outcome of the game, but you can control what you put into it and that's what I'm going to do," Maddux said. "I'm going to continue to do that until the season is over.

"A lot of times, the pitcher gets too much credit for winning and too much blame for losing," he said. "I'm just going to worry about pitching and really nothing else."

The Cubs (71-73) were trying to get back to the .500 mark for the first time since Aug. 4.

"You'd be foolish to think we're going to win every game," Maddux said. "I thought we played well tonight. I thought our defense was good. We ran into a tough pitcher [in Aaron Harang]. We had some pretty good swings against him but the guy's tough. He located well. Hopefully we'll keep the same intensity and come out tomorrow."

Rookie Matt Murton led off the Chicago third with his second homer in as many days, and second straight off a right-handed pitcher. Murton, who had been starting only against left-handers, drove a 2-1 pitch from Harang (10-12) to straightaway center for his fourth homer of the year.

"To me, as far as lefty-righty, it doesn't [matter]," Murton said. "It's just a matter of me learning each individual pitcher and getting into a rhythm myself. Obviously, right-handed pitchers will pitch you differently than a lefty will, and those are the adjustments you have to make as a hitter. Once you get over that and make those adjustments, I think you'll be all right."

And he's erasing any doubts about his power.

"My home runs will come," the rookie redhead said. "I feel I've been blessed with some strength to hit the ball out of the park. That's not an issue. I've got to continue to work on my swing and get it to the point where I groove it, so when I hit that ball hard, I hit it in the air and it has a chance to go out of the park."

Two pitches from Maddux resulted in two runs for the Reds. Valentin tied the game with a leadoff homer in the Reds fifth, his 13th. Valentin hit the first pitch from Maddux, and Wily Mo Pena connected on the next pitch for his 17th homer to make it 2-1.

Maddux threw 83 pitches over seven innings. Only two bad ones?

"It was about 10, but two stood out," Maddux said. "I got the ball up on one [to Valentin] and missed location on another [to Pena]."

Valentin now is 6-for-10 against Maddux lifetime.

"I'll probably just start walking him and just put him on," Maddux said.

"He's going to try to be careful with me and he's only going to give me one pitch to hit," Valentin said. "In that situation, I can't miss that pitch."

The Cubs right-hander isn't too concerned about missing the 15-win mark.

"As far as I'm concerned, I've had my chances," Maddux said. "I still have a chance, too. You've got to play the game right. I just want to get ready and pitch in five days and do what I can to throw a good game. I'll be a cheerleader for the next four."

It was tough for the crowd of 37,926 to cheer in the ninth. Cubs reliever Will Ohman retired the first two batters he faced, then walked two to set up Pena's second home run off Mitre.

"In that one inning when Will came in, he got two outs and nobody on base and he walked a couple guys. You can't walk guys late," Baker said. "Sergio was in there because he throws strikes. He made a mistake. That's what happens with youth. You've got a young staff, young bullpen -- subject to walks, subject to mistakes."

The Cubs also could be excused for being a little road weary. They had returned home from a three-city, three time zone, 10-game road trip in which they were 8-2.

"We've got to get back to the feel we had when we were on that road trip," Murton said. "Today we weren't able to execute offensively. Give Harang credit -- he did a good job pitching tonight. Greg did a good job and we didn't get enough runs for him."

"We just kind of messed that game up tonight," Baker said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.