Youth served as Cubs end road skid

CINCINNATI – There were celebrations all around in the Chicago Cubs clubhouse after the team ended a nine-game road losing streak with a 9-7 victory over the first-place Cincinnati Reds.

Obviously being 25 games under .500 is nothing to cheer about, but a pair of young Cubs made their presence known, giving each of them a memory for a lifetime.

Brett Jackson will always remember that his first career home run was launched toward the banks of the Ohio River, while pitcher Brooks Raley can savor the fact that Great American Ball Park will be the home to not only his first career victory, but also his first career hit.

“That was nice that Brett kind of got us going there really,” manager Dale Sveum said. “That was nice and Raley kept us in the game and did a nice job. I think he only gave up one hit through four (innings). He did a nice job and it’s nice that a guy can get ground balls and balls off the end of the bat with his sinker.”

Raley gave up four runs on five hits and two walks over 5 1/3 innings and had a number of game mementos from this one stashed away in his locker after the game.

“You always hear the first one isn’t (easy) and obviously I’m fired up,” Raley said. “The first one is definitely a tough one to get out of the way. We played great today. We had some really clutch hits.”

Getting wins is what Raley is paid to do, but getting that first hit on a single up the middle might have inspired a bigger smile from the left-hander.

“I told the coaching staff I can hit a little bit,” Raley said. “They kind of tested me out. After I got the hit (third-base coach) Pat (Listach) came by and said, ‘Maybe you can hit a little bit.’ Then I went and lined out in the next one and he came over and gave me a hand shake.”

Jackson’s hitting is more of a focus for the Cubs. The left-handed hitter struck out three more times in Game 2, but the Cubs managed to see progress.

“Things are getting a little bit better,” Sveum said. “We still have to get some things ironed out but you see that it looks like even though he ended up with three more strikeouts it’s just better at-bats. Everything looks better right now.”

Jackson certainly isn’t short on confidence, especially after hitting his first home run.

“I feel a lot more comfortable,” Jackson said. “I think today was the best I’ve felt at the plate despite the strikeouts. Obviously the home runs give confidence but I let it loose a little bit today. Not to say I was holding back before but I’ve been working tirelessly on some stuff. New stuff can be a challenge to put into a game but today I really felt good and let the swing go.”