CINCINNATI (AP) — The Cubs are having a tough time getting beyond their big trade.
Jay Bruce returned to right field and hit another two-run homer on Tuesday afternoon, and Johnny Cueto extended his winning streak against Chicago, leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 4-2 victory over the Cubs in the opener of a doubleheader.
Chicago has lost all four games since they dealt starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland for a package of prospects.
“Believe you me, I think the furthest thing from their mind when they’re playing right now is the trade, if I can be frank,” manager Rick Renteria said. “That’s done. It’s over.”
Now, the Cubs start to feel the full effect. They have pitchers making their big league debuts in two of the next three games, trying to fill in for the traded starters.
“It’s always a challenge when you lose good guys like Samardzija and Hammel,” left-hander Travis Wood said. “We’ve got some young guys coming up. Hopefully they can add a spark.
“You knew it was going to happen. You didn’t really expect it to be both (traded) at the same time, but we were prepared.”
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’re 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 Wood (7-7).
The left-handed-hitting outfielder has 50 homers off lefties during the last five seasons, the most by any player in the majors.
Wood threw a cut fastball that went right where he’d hoped, but Bruce homered anyway.
“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.”
Cueto (9-6), who was picked for his first All-Star team on Sunday, extended his stretch of success against the Cubs. He’s 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 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 – all off lefties – since emerging from his slump.
NOTES: The game made up an April 28 postponement. … 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.
Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay