CINCINNATI (AP) – Aramis Ramirez homered twice – his third straight game with a homer – and drove in five runs Tuesday night, powering the streaking Chicago Cubs to a 7-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Derrek Lee had three hits, including a two-run double in the fifth off Luke Hudson (1-5) – the latest meltdown by the NL’s worst starting rotation. Todd Walker singled twice, extending his hitting streak to 12 games.

The Cubs have won eight of nine on the strength of their rotation, which has allowed only 15 earned runs during the streak. Mark Prior (7-3) kept it going on another muggy evening that sapped pitchers and helped the ball fly.

Prior, making his fifth start since recovering from a broken elbow, got hurt by the only batter in the Reds lineup who has any appreciable success against him. Jason LaRue doubled home two runs in the second for a 2-0 lead.

Prior gave up seven hits and three runs in 6 2-3 innings. Will Ohman retired Ken Griffey Jr. on a grounder with two aboard to end the seventh.

The Cubs have piled up 16 runs and seven homers in the first two games of the series, taking advantage of the majors’ most homer-friendly ballpark. More homers have been hit at Great American than any other.

Ramirez’s 23rd homer in the third inning put the Cubs ahead to stay 3-2. His two-run shot in the ninth off David Weathers moved the Cubs one ahead of the Reds for the NL lead in homers with 122.

Ramirez had one of the Cubs’ five homers in a 9-4 win on Monday night, and has homered in three straight games for the second time this season. It was his second multihomer game of the season.

Lee had two homers in the series opener, becoming the first major leaguer to reach 30. He did the damage this time with a two-run double down the third base line in the fifth, ending Hudson’s outing.

Lee went 3-for-5, raising his average to .376, by far the best in the majors. Against the Reds this season, Lee has gone 16-for-30 with seven homers and 17 RBIs.

Hudson hasn’t won since June 9. The right-hander is 0-5 in his last six starts with a 10.72 ERA.

Cubs manager Dusty Baker was curious to see how Prior would react to his last outing. He threw 116 pitches in eight innings of a 5-1 victory over Pittsburgh on Thursday, his biggest test yet since he came off the disabled list for the second time this season.

Prior’s best moment came in the fifth, when Rich Aurilia doubled to cut it to 5-3 and Sean Casey was hit by a pitch. Prior went to a full count on Griffey, then struck him out swinging to end the threat. Prior momentarily raised his right arm in reaction, then patted his leg twice as he walked off the mound.

Notes: Prior threw 108 pitches. Since coming off the DL he is 3-2 with a 3.56 ERA. … LaRue is 6-for-16 career off Prior. … Weathers left the game after giving up the homer to Ramirez. He strained his lower back on the pitch. … OF Jody Gerut, acquired Monday night in a trade with Cleveland, pinch hit and reached on an error. … Reds OF Jason Romano refused a demotion to the minors, becoming a free agent. … The Reds have given up 141 homers, most in the majors.

AP-ES-07-19-05 2221EDT


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