Following two games where they took early leads before seeing the Reds tighten matters, the Cubs scored first and never looked back on Wednesday at Great American Ball Park. Three home runs, including an inside-the-park homer by Anthony Rizzo, and plenty of add-on runs kept them trucking for a 9-2 victory over the Reds and a three-game series sweep.
Rizzo made it 3-0 three batters into the game against rookie lefty Cody Reed when his drive to left-center field had Billy Hamilton and Adam Duvall converging. The ball skipped off of Duvall's glove into Hamilton's face and put the center fielder down, forcing him from the game. It was ruled a hit by the official scorer.
"He's making some flat fastball mistakes over the plate and throwing a lot of fastballs in fastball counts," Reds manager Bryan Price said of Reed. "These guys are putting them on the barrel right now. He'll make his adjustments."
That made for a smooth afternoon for Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks, who gave up two earned runs, eight hits and two walks with five strikeouts. A two-run fourth inning got Cincinnati on the scoreboard with a leadoff homer from Duvall and pinch-hitter Zack Cozart's RBI groundout that scored Eugenio Suarez. The Reds have lost seven of their last eight games.
"I thought his last two innings were his best stuff," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Combination of his command really got better, his aggressiveness in the zone got better and it looked like he normally does in the beginning part of the game. He was really good today."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED There's Almora where that came from: Almora's first career homer traveled 399 feet and came off the bat at 103 mph, according to Statcast™. Called up in early June with Dexter Fowler and Jorge Soler on the DL, the Cubs' No 5 prospect got the start Wednesday as Jason Heyward received a routine day of rest. Almora added a fine diving catch in center field to rob Brandon Phillips of a hit in the seventh inning. More >
Rough day for Reed: The third big league start of Reed's career was easily his worst as he allowed seven earned runs and nine hits over four innings with three homers. Ranked as theNo. 3 prospect in the organization and No. 59 in baseball by MLBPipeline.com, the 23-year-old had never allowed more than six earned runs in four Minor League seasons. He is now 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA.
"I just didn't throw a lot of first-pitch strikes," Reed said. "You make mistakes to the guys in that lineup and they're going to do it to you. I've got to be better next time out and be a little more fine with myself and just stay within myself throughout the outing."
Rizzo around the bases: Rizzo's first-inning line drive to left-center ended up as his first career inside-the-park home run and his 19th homer of the season, tying him with Milwaukee's Chris Carter for the lead among National League first basemen. Rizzo didn't come hard out of the box, expecting it to be caught, but he picked it up to a top speed of 18.6 mph and made it around the bases in 17.5 seconds, according to Statcast™. It's the first Cubs inside-the-park homer since Tony Campana on Aug. 5, 2011, which also came against the Reds. More >
"Right when it hit off of him, it kicked in," Rizzo said. "Turned on my speed and turned the jets on. Yeah, even if [third-base coach Gary] Jones is holding me up there, I was probably still just going to truck through it."
Duvall powering All-Star bid? Duvall's homer in the fourth gave him 22 for the season and moved him back into a tie for the Major League lead. The home run traveled 397 feet into the left-field seats, according to Statcast™, with an exit velocity of 100 mph. Among a lot Cubs fans sitting in left field -- adhering to a Wrigley Field tradition -- someone threw the ball back.
QUOTABLE "Again, up and down the lineup, understand, a bunch of babies played in that game today and they did a wonderful job there. Inexperienced, they're young, they came out and they played hard and they played really well." -- Maddon, on the youth of his lineup
CUBS SQUEEZE BUNT WITH SIX-RUN LEAD Already ahead, 8-2, after a run scored in the top of the seventh, Hendricks laid down a squeeze bunt toward the mound that easily scored Matt Szczur with an extra run.
"I think different managers have different philosophies about what is a comfortable lead, and I will really leave it at that," Price said.
Beginning the top of the eighth inning, Reds reliever Jumbo Diaz hit Kris Bryant with a pitch, but no warnings were issued.
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs: The Cubs start a four-game series against the Mets on Thursday. John Lackey (7-4, 3.29 ERA) takes the ball for Chicago in the 6:10 p.m. CT start at Citi Field in the first game between the Cubs and Mets since the 2015 NL Championship Series.
Reds: An 11-day, 10-game road trip to cap the first half begins at 7:05 p.m. ET Thursday, when Brandon Finnegan starts the opener of a four-game series against Gio Gonzalez and the Nationals and Nationals Park.