Jay Bruce had two RBIs and scored a run, Shin-Soo Choo drove in a run and scored twice, and the Reds scored five times when two were out to hold off the Cubs 6-5.
"The team that gets the two-out hits is the team that wins the games," Reds manager Dusty Baker said after the Reds improved to 4-10 on the road. "Those are big, big clutch hits when you get two out.
"We had some guys swing the bat pretty good today."
The Cubs scored three runs in the ninth against Reds closer Aroldis Chapman before reliever J.J. Hoover came on and struck out Darwin Barney with the bases loaded to pick up his first save.
"You kind of train yourself for that as a reliever," Hooever said. "All of these (relievers) can handle that situation. That's what makes us a good staff."
Chapman allowed three straight hits to open the inning, then got two outs before giving up a bases-loaded walk to Nate Schierholtz and a two-run single to Welington Castillo as the Cubs pulled within one. After pinch-hitter Cody Ransom drew a walk to load the bases again, Hoover replaced Chapman and preserved the win by getting Barney on a foul tip.
Baker cited inactivity for Chapman's problems in the ninth.
"He hadn't pitched in three days," Baker said. "If you don't pitch him it's like if you're pitching him too much.
Mike Leake (2-1) gave up two runs and nine hits in 5 2-3 innings, earned his fourth straight decision over the Cubs with help from five relievers.
"It's cold out there but I'm just trying to work on my strikes and work down in the zone," Leake said. "The umpire was working well with me on that low ball. It was nice to try to attack that lower half of the zone."
Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart also had run-scoring hits to help the Reds hand Carlos Villanueva (1-2) the loss.
"It's impossible to hit all the time—you wish they could and I wish they could," Baker said. "Things go in cycles. I'm just hoping this is an upturn towards how we can play, how we can hit."
Leake cruised into the sixth with a 4-0 lead before giving up a consecutive one-out doubles to Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano, and an RBI single to Schierholtz. Leake was replaced one out later after giving up a single to Luis Valbuena that put runners at first and third. Reliever Sam Lecure got Barney on a pop up to second base to end the inning.
Trailing 5-2 in the seventh, the Cubs loaded the bases with one out before reliever Sean Marshall struck out Soriano on a 3-2 pitch in the dirt and got Schierholtz to ground out to second.
The Cubs came in last in the majors in batting with runners in scoring position at .167 and had more trouble. A day after going 0 for 7 in such situations against San Diego, the Cubs were 0 for 4 until Soriano's RBI double in the sixth. Still, the Cubs left 12 runners on base.
The rally encouraged manager Dale Sveum even if the Cubs left the winning run on base in the ninth against Hoover.
"We didn't do much in the first eight innings again, though," he said. "We left some guys out there again and obviously they added on a couple there, one they added on without a hit the one inning (seventh). Those are the things that will come back and haunt you at the end of a game.
Cincinnati chased Villanueva with two out in the sixth after RBI doubles by Bruce and Mesoraco for a 4-0 lead. Michael Bowden relieved Villanueva and ended the threat, but Cincinnati tacked on single runs on Bruce's RBI grounder in the seventh against Bowden and Cozart's run-scoring single in the eighth against Kameron Loe.
"In my last two starts, I'm one pitch away from two quality outings," Villanueva said. "You know, the good part is I'm close to where I want to be. I'm just not putting that guy away when I need to."
Cincinnati broke on top in the first on Joey Votto's single and Frazier's run-scoring double to deep center. Xavier Paul led off the second with a double off Villanueva and scored on Choo's two-out single.
NOTES: Sveum said he wants to see injured pitcher Matt Garza get at least three more starts or "close to 100 pitches" in a rehab assignment after suffering a lat strain. Garza is set to pitch Monday for Triple-A Iowa. Svuem also said reliever Kyuji Fujikawa's rehab effort Sunday in Iowa will be only about 25 pitches. Fujikawa went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right forearm. ... The Cubs have at least one stolen base in five straight games. ... Reds RHP Johnny Cueto missed his scheduled rehab start at Class AA Pensacola on Friday due to a setback in his recovery from a strained right lat muscle. ... Cincinnati's Tony Cingrani (2-0) opposes Chicago's Jeff Samardzija (1-4) on Saturday.