Reds ride four-homer second inning past Lieber, Cubs

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Nothing special about Joey Votto's first homer, a hanging slider that he pulled into the seats in right field for a modest 1-0 lead.

What followed was breathtaking.

Jon Lieber became only the second pitcher in Chicago Cubs history to give up four homers in an inning and Votto connected three times in all as the Cincinnati Reds powered their way to a 9-0 victory Wednesday.

"I'm like a kid," said Votto, a second-year player who had never hit more than one in a game. "I thought it was cool. It's not a big part of my game."

On a wet, windy afternoon, the home run was everything.

Votto started a four-homer second inning off Lieber (2-2), making his first start of the season. Adam Dunn and Paul Bako also had solo shots, and Jerry Hairston Jr.'s two-run homer completed the rally.

Known throughout his career for impeccable control, Lieber joined Phil Norton as the only Cubs pitchers to allow four homers in an inning -- a surprising statistic, considering how the wind often blows out at Wrigley.

"It just happened so fast," said Lieber, who had never given up more than three in a game. "You try and regroup, and it just didn't happen. Basically, [pitches were] across the middle of the plate. I'm the kind of pitcher that's not going to get away with stuff like that."

The inning was over, but Votto and the Reds weren't even close to finished.

Brandon Phillips and Votto had back-to-back solo homers off Sean Marshall in the fifth, with Votto sending a fastball into the Reds' bullpen in center.

An inning later, Votto went to the opposite field on a fastball from Sean Gallagher, a two-run homer that left him with seven overall for the season.

Given a chance to try for a fourth, Votto grounded out in the eighth inning against Michael Wuertz.

"I'm not going to lie: It was in the back of my head," Votto said. "I thought if I got a good swing on a good pitch, I had a chance to do some good. In games like this, you don't know why it happens. You just go with the flow, and that's what I did."

A sluggish offense finally started slugging, bringing the Reds only their second victory in eight games.

"It was great to see that -- hitting all those home runs, scoring all those runs, especially after not hitting any," manager Dusty Baker said. "Those things go in streaks. Home runs go in streaks, hitting goes in streaks, good pitching goes in streaks. We had some good streaking going today."

The seven homers were Cincinnati's most since it hit an NL-record nine at Philadelphia on Sept. 4, 1999. Votto became the 23rd Reds player to hit three in a game, the first since Aaron Boone on May 8, 2003.

The wind was gusting and swirling, and rain moved in midway through the game. No problem for Edinson Volquez (5-1), who has been the Reds' best starter.

The major leagues' most prolific offense managed only four hits in seven innings off the right-hander, who has dominated NL hitters. Volquez, obtained in the trade last December that sent Josh Hamilton to Texas, has allowed one earned run or less in each of his seven starts.

Volquez struck out 10 while lowering his ERA to an NL-best 1.06, a number that surprises even him.

"The last two years, I haven't thrown the ball like I'm throwing right now," Volquez said. "Every pitch I throw, I've got a reason for throwing. Before, I'd just throw a pitch."

The 38-year-old Lieber made his first eight appearances out of the bullpen. When left-hander Rich Hill was sent to the minors to work on his control over the weekend, Lieber was the logical choice to move into the rotation.

He lasted only two innings. Half of his relief appearances went at least as long. Manager Lou Piniella was noncommittal about whether he will get another start.

"I saw the end results," Piniella said. "They hit the ball pretty hard."

Not since Norton gave up four homers in the fourth inning at Dodger Stadium on Aug. 8, 2000, had a Cubs pitcher been hit so hard. To that point, the Cubs hadn't allowed more than two homers in any game so far this season.

The four homers also tied Cincinnati's record for one inning, accomplished many times. The most recent had been Aug. 17, 1996, at Riverfront Stadium, when Eddie Taubensee, Reggie Sanders, Jeff Branson and Barry Larkin connected against the Colorado Rockies.

Game notes
The Cubs have lost nine of 13. They're off on Thursday before opening their longest homestand of the season, 10 games against Arizona, San Diego and Pittsburgh. ... The Cubs' record for homers allowed in a game is eight. It was the seventh time since 1960 that the Cubs allowed seven homers in a game. ... Phillips left with a bruised left calf, sustained on a foul tip.