Jason Hammel pitched six shutout innings and helped himself by hitting an RBI double to lead the Cubs to an 8-1 victory and series sweep of the Reds on Thursday. With the win, Chicago is 8-1 in its first nine games for the sixth time in franchise history and first time since 1969.
"I like the way we're playing baseball. I think we're ready to play baseball," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "The things you talk about in camp or in meetings, our guys are doing it. That's as well as I can explain it. Following game plans, having great at-bats, playing catch on defense, being in the right spot -- that's why we've won so many games."
Raisel Iglesias, the Reds' Opening Day starter, took the loss, serving up six hits over five innings. It was Chicago's first sweep of Cincinnati at Wrigley Field since Sept. 15-17, 2014.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Boomer No. 2 for Bryant: For the second time in as many games, Bryant homered, launching a 3-2 pitch from Iglesias into the left-field bleachers with one out in the second. Last year it took Bryant 21 games to hit his first homer of the season. Now he has two in the first nine games.
"The plane of [Bryant's] swing has changed and his at-bats have gotten better," Maddon said. "When it warms up and the wind is going in the other direction, even his popups will go out."
Not a smooth night: Iglesias used 93 pitches over his five innings, and his three earned runs allowed marked the first time he's given up more than two runs in his three 2016 starts. He labored in his final inning following a leadoff single by Addison Russell and an RBI double off the right-field wall by Hammel.
"The only one who hit me really hard was Bryant, and after that I just tried to make pitches and throw balls down in the zone," Iglesias said via translator Julio Morillo. "To Bryant I made a bad mistake, and they hit the ball really hard."
You go, we go: The Cubs' Dexter Fowler has reached base safely in all nine games this season and ranks among the National League leaders in on-base percentage. Fowler went 3-for-4 with a two-run single in the eighth and a walk, and now has five multihit games. He also made a nice running catch of pinch-hitter Tyler Holt's fly ball in center in the seventh.
"He's setting the tone, but up and down the lineup, I'll say it again, they're all engaged in every pitch, I love it," Maddon said of Fowler. "The at-bats were great." More >
Hoover struggles: Reds closer J.J. Hoover was given the ball for the eighth inning of a 3-0 game but struggled after getting the leadoff batter out. Five straight Cubs reached safely on three walks and three hits, for five runs. (That included Hoover walking in a run.) None of the hits he allowed was a hard shot, but he paid for not throwing strikes.
"He's got to pitch, that's why he was in there tonight. He had four straight days off," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He needed to see some hitters. I expect him to be sharp when he gets the next opportunity, hopefully an opportunity to save a ballgame. He just wasn't sharp. He was missing, and got in some trouble falling behind. It just wasn't his night." More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Reds right fielder Jay Bruce hit his first double of the season, a liner to left field, in the sixth inning. After trying to improve at using the whole field in Spring Training, the left-handed-hitting Bruce is seeing results. Of his 11 hits in 2016, eight have gone to the middle or opposite field. Two hits to right field were a home run and a walk-off triple. His third pulled hit came on Thursday, a ninth-inning single.
The Cubs have drawn at least five walks in five straight games for the first time since a five-game stretch from July 26-30, 2009.
QUOTABLE: "The three walks weren't good. The only walk I'm really mad about is the [Matt] Szczur one. I thought I made a lot of good pitches to Bryant and [Jorge] Soler, they were just able to lay off. The hits I did give up, they weren't hard hits. I made a lot of good pitches and I felt really good. It just didn't happen to go my way." -- Hoover, on the eighth inning
WHAT'S NEXT Reds: Missouri native Tim Melville will make his second big league start at 8:15 p.m. ET on Friday, Jackie Robinson Day, when the Reds continue their road trip and open a three-game series vs. the Cardinals. Melville threw 92 pitches over four innings but allowed one run on on Sunday in his debut vs. the Pirates.
Cubs: Right-hander Kyle Hendricks will open the Cubs' weekend series against the Rockies on Friday, Jackie Robinson Day. In his season debut, against the D-backs, Hendricks picked up the win and posted a quality start. First pitch will be at 1:20 p.m. CT at Wrigley Field.