After a comeback win on Saturday, the Cubs turned to Jon Lester on Sunday as they looked to win the series and close out a winning homestand.
Chicago failed to cash in on a prime scoring opportunity in the 1st but did not allow that to happen in the following inning. Kyle Schwarber led off the frame with a walk and moved to second on an Ian Happ single. Addison Russell worked the count to 2-2 before splitting the gap in right-center to drive in both runners and give the Cubs an early 2-0 advantage.
The Reds would take the lead over the next two innings. Billy Hamilton hit a two-out double in the 3rd and came around to score on a Jose Peraza single to center, making it 2-1. Then in the 4th, a Joey Votto walk was followed by an Eugenio Suarez home run to put Cincinnati in front 3-2.
The lead would not hold up long, as Schwarber doubled to lead off the Cubs’ half of the 4th and moved to third on a Happ single. A Russell force out knocked home Schwarber, knotting things up at 3-3.
Cincinnati regained the lead in the top of the 5th. Hamilton worked a two-out walk, stole second base, and advanced to third when Willson Contreras’ throw went into center field. Albert Almora Jr. bobbled the ball slightly, causing Hamilton to race home and score the go-ahead run when Almora’s throw got past Contreras.
Not content to let the Reds have all the two-out fun, the Cubs got in on the act in the 7th. After the first two batters went down quietly, Almora singled to center and advanced to third on a Jason Heyward single to right. With runners at the corners, Javy Baez hit a ball up the middle that bounced past Peraza at short, bringing home both Almora and Heyward to make it 5-4 Chicago.
Brandon Morrow came on in an attempt to close things out in the 9th, but Adam Duvall hit a home run to lead off the inning and tie things up at 5-5. Despite loading the bases with one out, the Cubs were unable to score in the bottom half of the inning, sending the game into extras.
After the Reds went 1-2-3 in the top of the 10th, the Cubs once again loaded the bases with just one out in the bottom half of the inning. Unlike in the 9th, however, Chicago didn’t waste the opportunity, as a David Bote walk drove in the game-winning run, giving the Cubs a 6-5 victory (box score).
Why the Cubs Won
The Cubs got some timely hitting (or non-hitting in the 10th) while the pitching staff did enough to hold a good Reds offense mostly in check.
With the score tied at 5-all in the bottom of the 10th, Contreras led off the inning with a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. One out later, Reds manager Jim Riggelman elected to intentionally walk Happ to get to Russell. The move appeared to pay off as Russell hit a ground out to Votto at first. Upon review, however, Votto lost control of the ball before stepping on first, loading the bases for Bote and setting the stage for the walk-off walk.
Stats That Matter
- It wasn’t the greatest outing for Lester, but he was able to battle through 6 1/3 innings to give the bullpen a little breather. All told, the veteran lefty gave up four runs on six hits and three walks while striking out two.
- Chicago is probably glad they won’t have to see Hamilton again until the end of August. The speedy center fielder had seven hits, two walks, scored four times and stole five bases in the series.
- The Cubs got the walk-off win in the 10th without the benefit of a base hit.
It was a weird win but one the Cubs will surely take. It not only gave Chicago a 2-1 series win over Cincinnati, but it also concluded a successful eight-game homestand that saw the Cubs go 7-1.
The Cubs (51-36, 1.5 GB) travel out west where they will begin a three-game series against the San Francisco Giants (46-45, 4.5 GB in NL West) on Monday. Kyle Hendricks (5-8, 4.27) will take the mound for Chicago, while San Francisco will counter with left-hander Andrew Suárez (3-5, 3.92) with first pitch set for 9:15 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago.