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Alfredo Simon leads Reds over Cubs 4-1, extending Chicago's losing streak to 5

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CHICAGO — For the Cincinnati Reds, there was no better place to open a 10-game trip than Wrigley Field.

Alfredo Simon lowered his ERA to 0.86, and the Reds beat the Chicago Cubs 4-1 Friday for their 16th win in their last 17 games at the Friendly Confines.

Making his third start, Simon (2-1) allowed an unearned run in six-plus innings and sent the Cubs to their fifth straight loss. Simon, in the rotation while Mat Latos recovers from elbow and knee injuries, had made 99 relief appearances for the Reds before getting a chance to start this year.

"He's wanted more opportunity. We've given that to him," manager Bryan Price said. "I think it was a good idea that we brought him into camp to start in case we had an injury or didn't have the depth. And our good fortune is that he came in ready to go and had a great spring and is off to a good start."

Simon struck out three and walked two.

"I feel great," he said. "I just tried to keep the ball down today and just try to (get ground balls)."

Jonathan Broxton pitched a hitless ninth for his second save in two tries, completing a six-hitter for the Reds, who stretched their winning streak to a season-best three and have won four of five.

PHOTO: Chicago Cubs left fielder Junior Lake can' t make the catch on a double hit by Cincinnati Reds' Billy Hamilton during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Friday, April  18, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Chicago Cubs left fielder Junior Lake can' t make the catch on a double hit by Cincinnati Reds' Billy Hamilton during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Friday, April 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Cincinnati, which won last year's season series 14-5, went ahead on Billy Hamilton's RBI double in the fifth. The Reds made it 3-0 in the sixth when Zack Cozart hit a bases-loaded grounder to third, and second baseman Emilio Bonifacio's relay for a double-play attempt went wide of first for an error that allowed Ryan Ludwick to score from second. Ludwick had reached on catcher's interference by Welington Castillo.

"Believe me, we don't take it for granted that we're coming in here to win all the games," Price said. "I mean, we want to but we don't take it for granted at all."

Jeff Samardzija (0-2) gave up three runs — one earned — and six hits in seven innings with seven strikeouts and two walks. He is 0-4 despite a 3.86 ERA in 10 starts since winning at San Diego on Aug. 24.

"It's a tough day to hit with that wind," he said. "It's just the way it goes sometimes. You can't let it get to you."

Luis Valbuena hit an RBI single in the seventh, ending a 24-inning scoreless streak for the Cubs dating to Sunday's loss to St. Louis.

Cincinnati scored another run in the eighth on a wild pitch by Justin Grimm.

"I think we we're a little sloppy in general, and Jeff really kept us in the ballgame throughout," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "I think we'll do better."

NOTES: Reds 2B Brandon Phillips left in the middle of the third, two innings after he felt back spasms after he swung and missed a Samardzija pitch. Price said Phillips was removed as a precaution and said he was hopeful Phillips could play Saturday. ... Price said LHP Aroldis Chapman has been cleared to throw batting practice for the first time since he was hit in the face by a line drive during an exhibition game on March 19. ... Reds LHP Sean Marshall (sore left shoulder) has rejoined the Reds and could be activated this weekend. ... The Reds stole five bases. ... Jon Tinker, a grandson of former Cubs Hall of Fame shortstop Joe Tinker of Tinker to Evers to Chance fame, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... Cincinnati's scheduled starter Saturday is LHP Tony Cingrani (1-1), while RHP Edwin Jackson (0-1) is to start for the Cubs.

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Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: Cincinnati Reds' Todd Frazier, right, celebrates with teammate Zack Cozart after scoring on a wild pitch by Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Justin Grimm during the eighth inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Friday, April 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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