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Reds exact measure of revenge against Hill

Sep 23, 2006 - 3:00 AM CINCINNATI (Ticker) -- Rich Hill dominated the Cincinnati Reds the last time he faced them. This time, he was no mystery.

Norris Hopper hit his first career homer and Edwin Encarnacion and Brendan Harris also belted blasts as the Cincinnati Reds exacted a measure of revenge against Hill with a 4-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs in a game called after five innings due to rain.

Six days ago, Hill pitched a two-hitter with 10 strikeouts for a 4-0 triumph over the Cubs. On Friday, Hill (6-7) again struck out 10 but allowed four runs and four hits in five innings.

"The difference was, I went inside a little too much," Hill said. "I went too much with the fastball. I didn't throw bad. I made a few mistakes."

"I'd have liked to play nine innings," Chicago manager Dusty Baker said. "Rich just didn't locate very well. The home run got him tonight. This ballpark is prone to giving up home runs. Those balls weren't blasted. They barely made it out."

After Hopper's homer in the third cut the Reds' deficit to 2-1, Encarnacion hit a two-run shot - his 15th - in the next frame to give the Reds the lead.

"(My teammates) were teasing me in the dugout that the rain would come and wipe the home run out," said Hopper, who hit his last home run at Class AA Chattanooga last season. "I'm trying to impress people. It was like earlier in the year when they promoted me to (Class AAA) Louisville, I tried too hard and I struggled. I'm starting to relax now."

Encarnacion hit his first home run after 105 at-bats.

"I got two days' rest," Encarnacion said. "I haven't felt comfortable. I came back very aggressive. I didn't hit a home run in 100 at-bats. That's the first time in my life. It was a long time. Now I have 15 and we won, so I'm happy."

Harris gave the Reds an insurance run with his first homer of the season in the fifth. Following a 90-minute rain delay, the game was called.

Henry Blanco hit his sixth homer for the Cubs, who lost their third straight.

Chris Michalak (2-3) allowed two runs - one earned - and four hits in 4 1/3 innings for the win. The lefthander, who hadn't won as a starter since 2001 with Toronto, got credit for the win despite working less than the normal five innings due to a scoring exception for rain-shortened games.

"I didn't know I had the win until five minutes ago," Michalak said shortly after the game. "I'll take it. The only inning it didn't rain was the first. I knew with the rain coming and Chicago's tough righthanders coming up that (manager Jerry Narron) was going to treat it like the ninth inning."

"Chris gave us a chance," Narron said. "We wanted our best guy to get us out of the inning."

Todd Coffey got the last two outs to notch his eighth save.

The Reds (75-78) entered 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League wild card race.

Cincinnati needs to win six of its last nine games to avoid a losing season for the first time since 2000.

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