CINCINNATI -- Anthony DeSclafani wasn't sure how well he'd hit the 3-2 fastball he was offered by Cubs pitcher Brian Duensing as he stared it down while heading toward first base, but as he saw Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber give up on tracking it, he knew he had just gifted himself four additional runs of support. The ball sailed into the seats in left field for his first career grand slam.
The right-hander backed it up with 6 1/3 strong innings to elevate the Reds to an 11-2 win over the Cubs on Saturday at Great American Ball Park. Cincinnati has won six in a row and nine of its last 11 games.
"It was awesome," DeSclafani said. "Everything happened so fast in that at bat, from the time I swung and hit the ball to shaking everyone's hand in the dugout."
• Arms That Hammer Sweepstakes
The stage for DeSclafani's blast was set by six consecutive batters reaching in front of him with two outs -- five coming against a laboring Duensing. A Scooter Gennett double and Eugenio Suarez single each brought in a run to give Cincinnati a 4-1 lead. Duensing walked Jesse Winker, yielded a base hit to Adam Duvall and then fell behind 3-0 to DeSclafani, who had just 16 hits in 116 career at-bats coming in. DeSclafani watched two fastballs go by for strikes and had a hunch a third one was coming. He guessed correctly and sent it into the left-field seats to blow the game open at 8-1.
"Anthony, I will tell you has put work into that," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "From the time he has been here going back to 2015, he was not a good handler of the bat. But he put a lot of work in. He's got a few hits in his career now. He is not a bad hitter. Once he knew the pitcher had to get one in there and not walk him, he was feeling pretty good about it."
The slam was DeSclafani's first career home run and the first grand slam hit by a Reds pitcher since Bob Purkey hit one against the Cubs on Aug. 1, 1959. It was the first grand slam hit by a pitcher since Jaime Garcia did it for the Braves on July 21, 2017, at Dodger Stadium.
The Reds have seven grand slams on the season, which is the most in the big leagues, and it was the fourth slam hit by the club in the past 10 days.
The blast highlighted a six-run third inning for Cincinnati after jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning thanks to a two-run home run from Tucker Barnhart. The Reds catcher has 10 hits in his last seven games and is batting .322 during that stretch.
As exceptional as DeSclafani's long ball was, his handiwork on the mound matched that. He gave up two runs on three hits with three strikeouts and four walks and exited the mound to an ovation in the seventh.
"I had to kind of refocus myself," DeSclafani said. "It was still early in the game there. I had to make sure I went three or four more innings and try to put up more zeros."
His lone mistakes came by way of home runs hit by Willson Contreras in the second inning and Benjamin Zobrist in the sixth. Aside from that, he only pitched out of one other jam and kept a lid on one of the more dangerous lineups in the National League.
"I tried pitching to my strength," DeSclafani said. "I stayed away a lot today. I don't know if I was making quality pitches, but sometimes you have those days where you miss barrels. Other days you make great pitches and they get hit. Today I was attacking, and it worked in my favor as far as getting ground balls or weak popups."
The right-hander has earned a win in three consecutive outings and is now 3-1 in four starts since coming off the 60-day disabled list on June 5 after sustaining a strained left oblique in Spring Training. His debut earlier this month signified the end of a long road back for DeSclafani, who had not pitched in the Major Leagues since September 2016 due to a multitude of injuries.
DeSclafani's outing was the fourth quality start the Reds' rotation has produced in five games and the sixth in the last 10 for a staff that has struggled at times this year. The starting pitching has posted a 2.70 ERA during the six-game winning streak.
"Just an outstanding job," Riggleman said. "Anytime these guys are getting us into the seventh inning we will take that every time. Our guys have really been doing that lately."
Joey Votto added a three-run blast in the eighth, and the Reds bullpen blanked the Cubs the rest of the way after DeSclafani's departure. The Cincinnati 'pen has allowed just one earned run in its last 12 innings. Cincinnati moved to 5-0 in the current homestand after the win.
"We have played clean baseball," Riggleman said. "We have run the bases well, made the plays, hit the cutoff man. We have really played and gotten timely hits, things we know we are capable of doing. We've put a nice string of ballgames together."
DeSclafani's slam was the first home run hit by a Reds starting pitcher since Mike Leake on April 30, 2015. He was the first Cincinnati pitcher to record four RBIs in a game since Bronson Arroyo collected four RBIs on June 3, 2006, in a game against the Astros. DeSclafani said after the game it was the first home run he had hit since high school and the first grand slam he had hit at any level of baseball.
HE SAID IT
"Through a season you have your ups and downs. I feel like we are all feeling good right now. We are positive and confident every time we go out there, and we feel like things are starting to snowball in the right direction for us." -- DeSclafani, on the six-game winning streak
The Reds wrap up this four-game series against the Cubs and a six-game homestand with Sal Romano on the mound. The right-hander is coming off back-to-back strong outings in which he turned eight innings of one-run baseball at Kansas City and earned a win against Detroit on Tuesday. Romano tossed seven shutout innings against the Tigers and scattered four hits with six strikeouts and four walks. Chicago will counter with Tyler Chatwood for Sunday's 1:10 p.m. ET game.