LaHair, Stewart homer to lead Cubs over Reds 3-1

Associated Press Modified: May 2, 2012 at 9:46 pm •  Published: May 2, 2012
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CINCINNATI (AP) — Jeff Samardzija didn't have a problem breaking a sweat.

Samardzija pitched into the eighth inning on a warm, humid night that was to his liking Wednesday, keeping his fastball around 96 mph the whole way, and the power-challenged Chicago Cubs hit a pair of homers for a 3-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

A warm front moved through the area on Tuesday night, setting off rounds of thunderstorms that forced postponement for the opening game of the series. When Samardzija took the mound a day later, it was 87 degrees for the first pitch.

Perfect for Samardzija (3-1), who grew up in Indiana and is used to heat and humidity.

"It feels nice to have warm weather, I'll tell you that much," he said. "Late in the game, it keeps your arm going. It's amazing what a difference it makes."

The right-hander allowed only three hits in 7 2-3 innings, leaving after giving up a two-out walk. He threw 94 pitches — 60 for strikes — and struck out seven.

Samardzija spent most of his first four seasons in the Cubs bullpen. He won a spot in the rotation during spring training and has pitched well enough to keep it.

"It seems like things keep getting more and more important," he said. "It was important to have a good spring, then important to have the good start. It'll be important to finish strong."

Bryan LaHair and Ian Stewart hit solo homers off Bronson Arroyo (1-1) for only the Cubs' third multihomer game of the season. They managed only nine homers in April, fewest in the majors.

LaHair's leadoff homer in the second gave him six overall. Stewart's was his second. The third baseman also had a nice barehanded play to rob Drew Stubbs of a hit in the fourth.

"I take a lot of pride in my defense," he said. "Making a play for me sometimes tops a hit."

Samardzija contained Jay Bruce, holding the NL's player of the week to a harmless double. Carlos Marmol retired all three batters in the ninth for his second save in four chances, finishing off the combined three-hitter.

The Cubs have had only six save opportunities this season, underscoring their early struggles.

It was the second straight impressive start for Samardzija, who struck out a career-high nine Cardinals in 6 2-3 innings on May 24. He's made 10 career starts in the majors.