CINCINNATI -- If there were any worries after the Cubs scored a combined three runs over two games (in Game 2 of Friday's doubleheader and Saturday night), Chicago put them to rest on Sunday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.
The Cubs found themselves in a slugfest with the Reds early in the series finale, but Chicago broke it open in the top of the eighth inning, surging ahead to a 15-7 win over Cincinnati to earn a split of the series.
- Games remaining: vs. SFG (3), vs. AZ (4), at COL (3), at AZ (3), vs. PIT (3), vs. COL (3), at ATL (3), at MIL (3)
- Standings update: The Cubs (73-64) are 3 1/2 games behind the Brewers (76-60) for first place in the NL Central. The teams have split the season series so far, so the tiebreaker has not yet been determined. Chicago sits in the second Wild Card spot, three games ahead of the Giants (70-67), Marlins (70-67), D-backs (70-67) and Reds (71-68), and 2 1/2 behind the Phillies (75-61). The Cubs have won the tiebreaker over San Francisco, but lost it to Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Miami. They have not played the D-backs yet, but have seven games against them coming up in the next two weeks.
“We are in control of our own destiny,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “We have San Francisco, who is right there, Arizona is coming. All these teams are around us, and we’re going to get a chance to play [them]. Milwaukee is on the back side of the month. They’re all important right now. I try not to emphasize [it] too much, but today’s win was big.”
Even though Chicago was on the road, the confines felt friendly. Legions of Cubs fans were on hand, and the roar of the crowd showed how much the victory meant to them, especially in the eighth inning.
With the game tied at 5-5, Chicago came to bat and scored four runs before recording its first out. Reliever Derek Law started the inning for the Reds and allowed three straight hitters to reach base, leaving the game with the bases loaded. In came closer Alexis Díaz, who has been lights out for most of the season. But Díaz didn’t fare any better than Law, allowing a two-run single to Nick Madrigal to break the tie. Madrigal swung at an elevated fastball, lining it off the mound and into center field.
“I’m just looking for a pitch to hit,” Madrigal said. “I looked back at the replays and [the pitch] was a lot higher than I thought it was. … I saw it [well]. In that moment, I was trying to get the ball in the outfield. … I was looking for something up. I was able to get the barrel on it.”
After pinch-hitter Miles Mastrobuoni reached on a throwing error by Díaz to load the bases again, Mike Tauchman singled to right field, scoring Jeimer Candelario and Madrigal.
“There were two great pitches that I threw, and they got hits on it. … That's just how baseball works,” Díaz said through interpreter Jorge Merlos.
After Díaz left the game in favor of right-hander Brett Kennedy, Chicago continued adding to the lead. Cody Bellinger hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Mastrobuoni. Up next, Dansby Swanson doubled home two runs.
“[I] just felt like they kind of just put some hits together and some stuff found the hole,” Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson said. “[It] felt like it was just contagious for them that inning, and they capitalized on it.”
“We were back and forth early, and then the eighth inning came around,” said Tauchman, who went 4-for-6. “Nick comes up with a huge knock. He’s been really good all year. That was huge.”
The Reds didn’t give up easily, scoring two runs of their own in the bottom of the inning off right-hander Keegan Thompson. But Chicago got the runs right back in the top of the ninth when Candelario homered off Kennedy, who also allowed a two-run double to Ian Happ.
“Today was a back-and-forth game all the way. We were able to break out there and have a nice big inning,” Happ said. “We probably haven’t had that in a week or more.”