Chicago Cubs: Two-out runs late lead to series-opening win over Reds
By Jake Misener
Four two-out runs in the seventh inning propelled the Chicago Cubs to a fourth-straight win in the series opener against the Cincinnati Reds.
Originally, the Chicago Cubs had Ben Zobrist penciled in the starting lineup on Tuesday night in Cincinnati. But, when he went to drive from Nashville to Cincinnati, the car rental company didn’t have a vehicle available. Instead, Ian Happ started in his place.
After Javier Baez delivered a two-out game-tying single against Wandy Peralta, Zobrist got the call to pinch-hit. And, as if we had any doubt, the reigning World Series MVP doubled, scoring a pair of runs and delivering the go-ahead knock.
Chicago (67-57) moved 10 games over .500 for the first time this season. They managed this despite getting a shaky start from John Lackey. The right-hander had been consistently strong since the All-Star Break. However, the long-ball plagued him again Tuesday.
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After allowing runs in both the first and second innings, Scooter Gennett took Lackey deep for his 22nd homer of the season. Cincinnati carried a 3-0 lead at that point.
The Cubs evened things back up with a three-run fifth. Lackey drew a leadoff walk before Jon Jay and Kyle Schwarber followed with back-to-back singles. Kris Bryant scored Lackey on a sac fly and Anthony Rizzo plated Jay on a ground ball to second. Two batters later, Rizzo scored on an RBI single off the bat of Jason Heyward to tie the game.
That lead was short-lived, however. In the bottom of the frame, Eugenio Suarez connected on a three-run blast that chased Lackey from the game and gave the Reds a 6-3 lead. The right-hander allowed six earned on nine hits in five-plus innings of work.
Blowing it wide open
But, despite the sub-par performance, the offense pulled Lackey off the hook. After Baez scored on a throwing error by Hamilton in the sixth, Chicago scored four two-out tallies in the seventh to take the lead for good.
Ian Happ, Alex Avila, Sunday’s walk-off hero, and Heyward drove in insurance runs in the eighth to seal the deal. Happ scored on a wild pitch just to add insult to injury as Cincinnati blew a lead late to their division rival.
After Kris Bryant was hit by a pitch in the ninth, Rizzo played third base in the bottom of the inning. We really saw it all in this one, folks. Avila took over at first for the final three outs. Rizzo at the hot corner marked the first time a left-handed-throwing player appeared at third base since Mario Valdez in 1997.
It would have been nice to say it was an uneventful ninth, but Felix Pena imploded, allowing a pair of home runs – including Suarez’s second of the night.
Next: Looking at potential September call-up options for Cubs
Chicago and Cincinnati continue their three-game set Wednesday night at Great American Ballpark.
Mike Montgomery (3-6, 3.64) takes the ball for the Cubs in place of the injured Jon Lester. The Reds counter with Asher Wojciechowksi (3-2, 5.36). First pitch is at 6:10 p.m. CT.