CINCINNATI (AP) — Move Jay Bruce to first base, and he homers. Put him back in his customary spot in right field, he homers again.
Bruce is following the deepest slump of his career with one of his best stretches of homers.
Bruce returned to right field and hit another two-run shot Tuesday afternoon, helping Johnny Cueto extend his winning streak against Chicago and leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 4-2 victory over the Cubs in the opener of a doubleheader.
The Reds put first baseman Joey Votto back on the disabled list before the game, hoping a strained muscle above his left knee will heal enough to let him play this season. They are using different players — including Bruce — at the position for now.
Bruce played first base for the first time since high school and hit a two-run homer in his final at-bat during a 9-3 win on Monday night in the opener of the five-game series. He was back in the outfield and homered again in the first inning off left-hander Travis Wood (7-7).
“He’s been taking advantage of pitches to drive,” Reds manager Bryan Price said.
The left-handed-hitting outfielder has 50 homers off lefties during the last five seasons, the most by any player in the majors.
“A three-run first inning is always good,” Bruce said. “You know when Johnny has the ball that you have a legitimate chance to win the game. We were able to pull it out.”
Cueto (9-6), who was picked for his first All-Star team on Sunday, extended his stretch of success against the Cubs. He is 5-0 in his last seven starts against Chicago, allowing only six earned runs for a 1.19 ERA. Cueto gave up six hits, including back-to-back homers in the sixth by Chris Coghlan and Ryan Sweeney.
Manny Parra pitched out of a one-out, bases-loaded threat in the seventh. Aroldis Chapman gave up a hit and a walk in the ninth while getting his 18th save in 20 chances.
Chris Heisey and Ramon Santiago each had three hits for the Reds. Billy Hamilton singled, doubled and stole two bases.
The Cubs left the bases loaded twice. They stranded six runners in scoring position on Monday night.
The Reds traded Wood to the Cubs as part of a three-player package for reliever Sean Marshall after the 2011 season. Wood fell to 1-5 in eight starts against his former team. He gave up eight hits and four runs in 5 1-3 innings.
The pivotal hit was Bruce’s homer off a cut fastball that went right where Wood intended.
“Down and in, right where we wanted it,” Wood said. “It could have been up more, but I’ve never thrown that pitch to him in three years so I didn’t figure he’d be sitting on it. But obviously he was ready.”
The Reds have dominated the Cubs, going 33-12 against them over the last three seasons.
Cincinnati will have to get along without its 2010 National League MVP for an indefinite time. Votto missed 23 games while on the disabled list earlier this season because of the leg injury. He batted only .250 after his return and hasn’t hit a homer since May 10.
The Reds are hoping that Bruce can help make up for the loss. He snapped an 0 for 26 slump — the longest of his career — with a two-run homer on Sunday. He’s 4 for 9 with three two-run homers since emerging from his slide.
NOTES: The game made up an April 28 postponement. … Cubs LHP Tsuyoshi Wada was set to make his major league debut in the second game, facing LHP David Holmberg. Wada, who pitched in Japan for nine years, hurt his elbow during his first spring training with Baltimore in 2012 and had reconstructive surgery. … Holmberg was set to make his Reds debut. They got him from Arizona in December as part of a three-team trade. Holmberg pitched in one game for Arizona last year. … Junior Lake snapped an 0 for 20 slump with a single in the ninth off Chapman. … C Brayan Pena was reinstated from the paternity list, filling Votto’s roster spot.
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