CINCINNATI—The seven home runs off three Cubs pitchers in Wednesday's 9-0 loss to Cincinnati traveled more than a half-mile and threatened to increase the hole in the ozone layer.
Reds rookie first baseman Joey Votto smacked three home runs himself as Cincinnati bombed Jon Lieber in his first start since he replaced Rich Hill in the rotation.
After losing four straight series and 9 of 13 games dating to April 24 at Colorado, the Cubs headed home to Chicago searching for signs their 14-3 stretch of last month wasn't just a mirage.
While Hill couldn't throw the ball over the plate in his last start, Lieber couldn't keep it in the ballpark, tying a franchise record by serving up four home runs in the Reds' five-run second inning. The four bombs Lieber gave up traveled 1,600 feet combined.
The dubious record Lieber matched was set by journeyman left-hander Phil Norton on Aug. 8, 2000, at Dodger Stadium. Gary Sheffield, Shawn Green, Kevin Elster and pitcher Darren Dreifort took Norton deep.
"They were aggressive early in the count, and I made mistakes I couldn't get away with," Lieber said. "The last time I remember going through something like that was my first year here in '99 against the Cardinals. It just happened so quickly. You try to regroup. It just didn't happen."
Sean Marshall served up two home runs in relief in the fifth and Sean Gallagher finished off the bloodbath when he allowed Votto's third homer in the sixth.
The seven homers were one shy of the club record for most home runs allowed in a game, and traveled a combined 2,769 feet.
It is the seventh time since 1960 the Cubs have allowed seven or more homers in a game.
Reds rookie Edinson Volquez (5-1) threw seven shutout innings, striking out 10 and allowing only four hits, as the Cubs finished the trip with a 2-4 record.
"We haven't been playing very well," Piniella said. "Get a day off [Thursday] and regroup at home."
Votto started the home run derby with a 401-foot blast to right to begin the second.
Adam Dunn followed two pitches later with a 428-foot solo shot in the same vicinity.
Former Cubs Paul Bako and Jerry Hairston ended the spree, with Bako hitting his fourth, a 409-footer to right, and Hairston his first, lining a 362-foot, two-run blast to left, making it 5-0.
Piniella mercifully yanked Lieber after the brutal inning, sending in Mike Fontenot to pinch-hit in the third.
"Just terrible pitching," Lieber said. "I put my team in the hole right off the bat."
Votto came to the plate in the eighth with a chance to tie baseball's single-game home run record of four, but he grounded to short against Michael Wuertz.
Will Lieber remain in the rotation, or will Piniella go to Plan C, whatever that is?
"We'll sit on it," Piniella said. "We don't need to make a decision right now. But we'll think about it and see what we do."
Lieber, whose earned-run average rose from 1.86 to 3.80, said he had no idea whether he will be one-and-done in his audition for the fifth starter's job.