Skid hits six as pitching hit hard

Skid hits six as pitching hit hard

CINCINNATI -- All the Cubs need is one win to be happy again.

Ted Lilly lasted two innings Friday in his shortest outing of the season as the Cincinnati Reds roughed up the Cubs, 10-2, to hand them their sixth straight loss. It's Chicago's longest skid since dropping six in a row May 27-June 2, 2007.

"We've struggled the last week, the last five, six games," Alfonso Soriano said. "We have to figure out how to get out of this. I know it's going to come. Good teams get out of slumps. When we come back, we'll be better.

"We just have to win one game," Soriano said. "That's all it takes. One game. It's very sad. Everybody's not happy."

Especially Lilly. The left-hander, now 13-9, was charged with five runs on four hits and three walks over two innings. It's the second time he's been unable to go at least three innings against the Reds; on July 10, he gave up four runs on six hits over 2 2/3 innings. In four games against the lefty, Cincinnati has totaled 15 earned runs over 17 2/3 innings.

"For one reason or another, they've found a way to beat me," Lilly said. "I obviously didn't make pitches. It's probably my most disappointing start of the year, especially given the case that I had a little more motivation to go out and win this one, given the circumstances the last five days."

Friday's game was Lilly's shortest outing since a two-inning, end-of-the-season playoff tuneup on Sept. 30, 2007.

The Cubs still lead the National League Central and still have the best record in the NL, yet in the last six games, the offense has disappeared. They've been outscored 36-14.

"We're going to have to swing the bats better, there's no question about that," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "I don't know where the offense has gone, I really don't."

Is the problem a lack of patience at the plate?

"I don't know about patience," Piniella said. "How about some balls in the gaps, balls lined here and there, good at-bats. These guys are trying, I've got no complaints from that standpoint. The truth of the matter is, you've got to get it done.

"It's been a struggle here over the past half-a-dozen games or so to put runs on the board," he continued. "Then when your pitching is not good, it gets ugly, like it did tonight."

Lilly said he wasn't trying to do too much to make up for the lack of offense.

"I know that at some point we're going to break out and score runs, we're going to play like we're capable of playing," Lilly said. "I think everyone in this clubhouse still knows that, regardless of what's gone on the past six, seven days. I think we'll be OK. I need to take care of my business, I know that."

Jay Bruce hit his first career grand slam and Joey Votto drove in three runs, including two on his 18th home run in the first, to back Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo (11-13), who was throwing more breaking pitches against the Cubs than he did earlier this year.

After Votto's homer, the 31st of the season off Lilly, the Reds had runners at first and second with one out in the second when Jeff Keppinger hit an RBI double off the left-center-field wall to make it 3-0. Brandon Phillips was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Votto unintentionally walked to force in a run. Edwin Encarnacion's sacrifice fly put the Reds up 5-0.

"I felt like I put us in an awfully big hole," Lilly said. "I definitely believe in momentum, and I gave them a huge advantage early in the game."

Was it simply bad location?

"I'll say location, the inability to throw quality offspeed stuff, didn't get ahead in the count," Lilly said. "I guess there's not a whole lot to say, because I wasn't out there very long."

Bruce connected in the fourth with the bases loaded off Jon Lieber, who also would like to forget the Reds. On May 7, Lieber gave up four home runs in one inning in a 9-0 loss at Great American Ball Park.

All in all, it was not a good way to start the Cubs' longest road trip of the season.

"That's not what we expected," Piniella said.

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