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CIN@CHC: Hamilton knocks in Mesoraco with RBI double

CHICAGO -- Billy Hamilton is 23 years old, has five stolen bases this season and is really, really fast. Emilio Bonifacio is 28, has seven thefts, and also can be a nuisance on the bases.

The Reds' and Cubs' respective leadoff men will square off again on Saturday in the second game of their series, and it will be interesting to see who creates the most problems.

In the series opener Friday, the Reds swiped five bases, including one by catcher Devin Mesoraco, and only one by Hamilton, as Cincinnati posted a 4-1 win over Chicago.

Cubs manager Rick Renteria said the plan was to try to limit the damage.

"If [Hamilton] gets on base, he's able to run, obviously," Renteria said. "I think we're going to try to keep him off base. Those guys, much like a Bonifacio, many times when they get on, they score. We have to minimize their ability to get on base and hopefully we do that by the way we pitch them and the way we defend them."

Hamilton struck out to open the game, flew out to right to lead off the third, and hit a RBI double with two outs in the fifth, then stole third. He grounded out to first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who made a diving stop and threw in time to pitcher Jeff Samardzija to open the seventh, and he sacrificed in the ninth to advance a baserunner.

Bonifacio has cooled off after a red-hot start, and was batting .339. He had been leading the Major Leagues in batting and hits, and his seven steals puts him among the Major League leaders. He's tied for sixth most in franchise history for the first month of the season. Brian McRae set the Cubs mark with 12 steals in March/April 1996.

"He's a sparkplug, and we'll continue to throw him out there and give him opportunities to show what he's capable of doing," Renteria said of Bonifacio.

Bonifacio singled to lead off for the Cubs on Friday, ending an 0-for-13 skid, but he was picked off at first. He flew out in the fourth, walked in the sixth, and struck out to end the seventh.

In the end, Hamilton was a key component in the Reds' win.

"I think any little piece -- a stolen base, a successful bunt, advancing [Neftali] Soto there in the ninth, and then playing good outfield defense, stealing a base, driving in a run, everything is building up a foundation of confidence for Billy," Reds manager Bryan Price said.

Reds: Phillips' back spasms put status in doubt
• Brandon Phillips' status for Saturday's game is up in the air. The second baseman was lifted in the third inning Friday for precautionary reasons after suffering back spasms. He was to be re-evaluated on Saturday.

"That second at-bat [in the third], you could see there was some discomfort, so I didn't see it getting any better," Price said of Phillips. "I just didn't think it was a great idea, so we got him out of there."

Phillips looked uncomfortable in his first at-bat in the first, and was checked by the Reds' athletic trainer, yet stayed in the game and hit a single.

• Expect the Cubs to load their lineup with right-handed hitters against Reds lefty Tony Cingrani, who gets the start on Saturday. He's coming off a win over the Rays in which he gave up a career-high five hits over 6 1/3 innings. According to Elias, Cingrani is the first pitcher in Major League history to begin his career with 21 starts without allowing more than five hits in any of those appearances.

In four games against the Cubs, Cingrani is 2-2 with a 4.15 ERA, and he's 1-0 in two starts at Wrigley Field.

The lefty isn't too worried about the elements at Wrigley. He grew up in New Lenox, Ill.

"I'm from around here, so I'm used to cold weather," Cingrani said. "We'll see how the wind is and plan accordingly."

Cubs: Rain not ideal for Jackson
• Edwin Jackson would just like it to be dry on Saturday. In his last start against the Cardinals, the game was interrupted for 46 minutes by rain in the fourth inning. Jackson stayed in the game and took the loss, serving up four runs over six innings.

The problem, Jackson said, was falling behind the St. Louis hitters.

"It's just a matter of making pitches and attacking the strike zone," Jackson said. "If I make those pitches [when the count's 1-2], that definitely changes the outcome of the game."

The right-hander led the National League in losses last season with 18, and he is still looking for his first win of the season. Comments