CHICAGO – Jeff Samardzija kept the Cubs in the game at Wrigley Field, and it all fell apart for the home team after the right-hander left the mound.
It's one familiar refrain.
Samardzija pitched six solid innings, but Chicago's lineup struggled against Alfredo Simon and the Cincinnati Reds scored five times with two outs in the ninth inning of a 6-1 win on Monday night.
Hector Rondon (1-2) allowed Billy Hamilton's tiebreaking RBI single and Devin Mesoraco's third career grand slam before James Russell came in and struck out Jay Bruce to end the inning.
"Not the way you kind of draw it out. We tried to let him work his way through it," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "Obviously it didn't work out."
Samardzija allowed one run and four hits, struck out seven and walked two. He entered with a 1-2 record and a 5.73 ERA in four June starts.
"I feel great. The frustrating part about it is burning a lot of pitches early in the first couple innings and then playing catch-up after that," he said. "I think it's a positive if we can figure out how to get through a little more economically early, with the way I'm throwing and the way I feel I'll be able to pitch deeper into games."
Samardzija, who is expected to be one of the top trade targets ahead of next month's deadline, has experienced some tough luck at home this year. He is 1-3 with a 1.63 ERA in eight starts at Wrigley.
"I'm sure it's not easy reading where he's going, when he's going, who he's going by, who he's getting if he does get traded," teammate Anthony Rizzo said. "It's just a distraction and it's not easy and he's doing well through all of it."
Mesoraco homered for the fourth straight game. The catcher also was hit by a pitch twice and walked twice.
"You're going to get beat up back there," said Mesoraco, shrugging off all the bumps and bruises. "That's why I get more days off than everybody else."
Cincinnati won for the sixth time in seven games to move above .500 for the first time this season at 38-37. The winning sequence started when Chris Heisey reached on a pinch-hit single with two outs and no one on base, snapping an 0-for-16 rut.
"It was all set up by Chris Heisey fighting his way into that soft single and stealing second base," Reds manager Bryan Price said.
Jonathan Broxton (3-0) pitched a perfect eighth and Logan Ondrusek got three outs, helping the Reds improve to 30-11 against the Cubs over the last three seasons.
Rizzo hit his 16th homer for the Cubs, who have lost three in a row.
The Reds got off to a fast start behind Hamilton, who led off the game with a grounder just past second baseman Darwin Barney. The bouncer died in the grass in short right field and the speedy rookie hustled into second with a double, extending his hitting streak to 11 games.
Todd Frazier followed with a drive into the gap in right-center for an RBI triple. But Samardzija buckled down and kept Frazier at third, retiring Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick after he hit Mesoraco for the first time with one down.
Chicago wasted a prime scoring chance in the fourth. Rizzo reached on a leadoff single before Starlin Castro doubled into the left field corner, putting runners on second and third.
Simon then retired three straight to preserve Cincinnati's 1-0 lead. Luis Valbuena flied out to medium right field, Welington Castillo hit a comebacker to the mound and Ryan Sweeney lined out to left.
"I just tried to make my pitches the best I can, and everything was good," Simon said.
The Cubs also wasted a leadoff double by Barney in the third. Samardzija broke his bat over his left knee after he popped up a sacrifice attempt.
NOTES: Renteria said they are working on finalizing the starting pitchers for Saturday's doubleheader against Washington. ... Cubs RHP Jake Arrieta (3-1, 1.98 ERA) will face RHP Homer Bailey (7-3, 4.68 ERA) in the second game of the three-game series Tuesday night. Arrieta is 2-0 with a sparkling 0.73 ERA in four starts this month. ... Sting led the crowd in the singing of "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap