CINCINNATI – Starting pitcher Carlos Villanueva raised his arm toward a clubhouse attendant and twisted his hand, asking him to turn down the blaring music so he could hear reporters’ questions.
At least there was music.
The Cubs blew another late lead Tuesday, but found a way to recover. Carlos Marmol gave up the tying run in the ninth before Darwin Barney hit a homer in the 10th inning for a 4-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
For once, the Cubs could celebrate the ending of a close game.
“We’ve got music on,” Villanueva said. “That’s a good thing.”
Usually, close games end up badly for the Cubs.
They blew a two-run lead in the 13th inning of a 5-4 loss on Monday night. A day later, Villanueva turned a 2-1 lead over to the bullpen with one out in the ninth and Shin-Soo Choo on second base.
Marmol, who lost the closer’s job after a rough first week, has pitched well in non-save appearances. Manager Dale Sveum said before the game he’s been impressed by the performance, but wasn’t ready to make Marmol the full-time closer just yet.
Instead, he was going to go by pitcher-batter matchups to finish games. He had one of the best ones in his favor in the ninth.
Joey Votto was 1 for 15 career against Marmol with nine strikeouts when he came to the plate. This time, he singled up the middle, scoring Choo to tie it at 2.
“Those numbers don’t lie,” Sveum said of Votto’s struggles against Marmol. “He got the ground ball. It’s like, ‘Really? He can’t hit it at somebody? You’re kidding me.’”
Marmol (2-1) then escaped a bases-loaded threat to keep it tied.
“The ninth inning was big,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “I’ve said that a lot of times if you don’t come all the way back, it usually doesn’t work out for you.”
The Cubs’ slumping second baseman put them in position to enjoy some postgame music.
Barney missed the first two weeks of the season after needing five stiches to close a cut on his left knee. He was only 3 for 26 without an RBI before he connected in the 10th off left-hander Manny Parra (0-1).
“I wouldn’t say I needed that,” said Barney, who slapped his hands together as he rounded the bases. “I think our team needed that win. Obviously it was nice to get an RBI.”
Dave Sappelt added an RBI single off Parra. Kevin Gregg fanned Votto with two aboard in the 10th to get his first save and end the Cubs’ four-game losing streak.
Chicago won for only the second time in its last nine games. The Cubs are last in the NL Central at 6-13.
Starlin Castro went 0 for 4, ending the major leagues’ longest hitting streak at 14 games.
The Reds lost for only the second time in nine games on a homestand that concludes Wednesday. Long games are their norm — they’ve already gone extra innings five times at Great American Ball Park and had another game suspended overnight by rain.
The Cubs scored their first two runs off left-hander Tony Cingrani, who struck out nine in his second start in the majors. Cingrani was called up to replace Johnny Cueto, out with a pulled muscle in his back.
Scott Hairston had a sacrifice fly in the second. Cody Ransom, claimed off waivers from San Diego on April 16, finally got into a game for the Cubs and delivered on his first swing. He started at third base and hit a solo shot on the first pitch from Cingrani for a 2-0 lead.
Ransom made a nice play to help Villanueva escape a two-on threat in the seventh, turning Todd Frazier’s grounder into a third-to-first double play. He also threw out catcher Corky Miller from foul territory after grabbing his grounder down the line in the eighth.
The Cubs wasted a chance in the sixth, when Sappelt tried to score from third against a drawn-in infield. Second baseman Brandon Phillips got to Anthony Rizzo’s grounder and threw home from his knees. Miller blocked the plate with his left shin guard and tagged out Sappelt.
NOTES: Reds reliever Jonathan Broxton said his right hand — hit by a line drive on Monday night — had recovered and he was available to pitch. ... LH reliever Sean Marshall played catch on Tuesday, a day after he started his rehab stint by throwing one inning for Triple-A Louisville. Marshall, disabled by shoulder tendinitis, said he felt fine a day after his outing. ... The last Cubs player to homer in his first at-bat with Chicago was Castro on May 7, 2010, also in Cincinnati.
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