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Associated Press
Chicago Chris Coghlan advances safely to third base on a a two-out single by Justin Ruggiano in the fifth inning. Coughlan scored on Reds first baseman Jay Bruce’s error on a ball hit by Anthony Rizzo.

Bruce’s HR leads Reds rally

– An error that let in a run, a two-run homer that turned things around. Jay Bruce’s introduction to first base ended up being a big hit.

Bruce played first base for the first time since high school and committed an error that let in an unearned run Monday night, but he later homered to help the Cincinnati Reds rally for a 9-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs in the opener of a five-game series.

“I ended up falling back on being a baseball player,” Bruce said. “In the end, I drove in more than I let in. It was definitely fun. I felt bad about missing that ball. That was a tough play, but it’s a play I expect to make and should make.”

Billy Hamilton drove in a four runs with a single and a bases-loaded triple.

The Reds have won 11 of their last 16 games despite getting little production from injured first baseman Joey Votto, who had another test on his troublesome left thigh Monday. The Reds were awaiting results before deciding whether to put him back on the disabled list.

Mike Leake (7-7) gave up a two-run homer to Anthony Rizzo and an unearned run off Bruce’s error during seven innings. Leake is 8-2 in his career against Chicago, including 4-0 in his last four starts with a 1.71 ERA.

After Bruce’s error let in a run that tied it 1-all in the fifth, he singled and scored on Devin Mesoraco’s double off Edwin Jackson (5-9). Bruce hit a two-run homer off James Russell in the seventh. Hamilton tripled home the three runs in the eighth.

Chris Coghlan had four hits for the Cubs, who stranded six runners in scoring position. They had a runner thrown out at the plate in the sixth when Skip Schumaker – filling Bruce’s spot in right field – nailed Welington Castillo as he tagged from third on a fly ball.

Votto, the NL’s MVP in 2010, has missed the last two games with a strained muscle above his left knee, an injury that sidelined him for 23 games starting in May. He’s batting only .250 with no homers since his return.

Bruce volunteered to move to first base to help the Reds, who have no experienced backup at the position. He was on the field four hours before the game taking grounders and getting tips on how to cover the base in various situations.

“It was an experience, but one I hope I don’t have to prolong,” said Bruce, who expects to play first base occasionally.

Bruce made a couple of nice plays on ground balls and plucked a low pickoff throw out of the dirt. His first error in the infield helped the Cubs tie it 1-all in the fifth.

“I thought he did a good job,” Leake said. “It’s not easy for an outfielder to come in and play the infield like that.”

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