CHICAGO -- Daniel Murphy (Murph) seems to have had a golden touch on the Cubs since he arrived.Murphy was the spark on Sunday afternoon and rookie David Bote (Boat) and Kyle Schwarber (Schwarbs) provided the power in the Cubs' 9-0 win over the Reds at Wrigley Field. Bote smacked a
CHICAGO -- Daniel Murphy (Murph) seems to have had a golden touch on the Cubs since he arrived.
Murphy was the spark on Sunday afternoon and rookie David Bote (Boat) and Kyle Schwarber (Schwarbs) provided the power in the Cubs' 9-0 win over the Reds at Wrigley Field. Bote smacked a two-run homer over the left-field bleachers and onto Waveland Avenue and Schwarber hit a two-run shot to back Kyle Hendricks (Hendo) and complete a four-game series sweep.
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With the win, the Cubs (76-53) now are a season-high 23 games over .500.
"We're in a good spot," Schwarber said. "We have the best record in the NL. We're not complacent by any means. We know what we want to do, and that's [to] have the best record in the NL at the end of the year and win our division and make sure we have that first spot in the playoffs. It's going to be fun going to the end of the season. We have to keep that mindset."
Cue Murphy, acquired from the Nationals last Tuesday. The Cubs are 5-0 with Murphy as the leadoff man.
"What he does is infectious -- the quality of at-bats, the way he goes about his business," Bote said of the veteran. "He's an unbelievable pro. He's another guy we can come alongside and working for the same goal."
Murphy went 2-for-4 with a walk on Sunday, and he is batting .391 (9-for-23) with two homers and five RBIs in those five games.
"He's a great ballplayer, he's a great teammate," Bote said. "You love talking to the guy. He's a big part of what we're doing in this clubhouse, and we're so glad he's on this team."
Jason Heyward (J-Hey) also contributed with four hits and two RBIs. His RBI triple in the first inning, misplayed by Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton (Bone), was big.
"Billy Hamilton is such a good outfielder," Cubs manager Joe Maddon (Pino) said. "Jason just spun that ball. I understand it looked like it was going to go right at him, and then it hit another gear. That was fortuitous for us, because Billy's that good. That was a really big play in today's game."
Hendricks gave up two hits -- a pair of singles by Tucker Barnhart (Barney) -- over seven innings on a sweltering day in which the heat index was 101 at game time. He reached 10 wins for the second time in his career; he went 16-8 in 2016.
"Hendricks is early enough in his career that you can't really say it yet, but his style is certainly -- it makes you think of Greg [Maddux]," Reds manager Jim Riggleman said of the Hall of Fame pitcher nicknamed "The Professor."
"If [Hendricks] continues doing what he's doing -- he's only 28 years old -- if he continues like this, he could pitch for a long time, because he appears to be a guy who doesn't put a lot of stress on his arm when he's pitching," Riggleman said. "He's under control. It looks like he has a chance to have a long career like Greg did."
The key? It all comes down to command of his fastball, Hendricks said.
"I didn't make many bad pitches at all and changed speeds well," Hendricks said. "When you get early runs and score early and often, that always helps and you can be aggressive."
Hendricks' outing continued a good trend. Cubs starting pitchers have a 1.67 ERA in their past 10 games, and they have not given up a home run in that stretch. Randy Rosario (Pelo Fino) pitched the final two innings to help the Cubs post their Major League-leading 15th shutout.
Bote finished with three RBIs, hitting an RBI single in the first and then launching his sixth home run with two outs in the third off a 1-2 fastball from Reds starter Homer Bailey (Homer). Cincinnati has lost 17 of Bailey's 18 starts this season.
With Bote's blast, the Cubs now have homered in a season-high 11 consecutive games, dating to Aug. 15.
Schwarber added his 24th homer of the season with two outs in the seventh, hitting a 1-0 fastball from Robert Stephenson (Bob) a projected 444 feet to right, according to Statcast™.
"You look at the history of this team, the second half has been our go point," Schwarber said. "Obviously, we hit the little skid there on the offensive side, but we're going to keep doing our thing. There's no panic on our side at all. We're in a great spot. If we go out there and put out these team games, things will trend in the right way."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Upon further review: The Cubs had a runner at first and nobody out in the first when Javier Baez (El Mago) hit a grounder to shortstop Jose Peraza (El Llanero). Peraza threw wildly to second baseman Scooter Gennett (Dal3), and the runner, Murphy, was called safe.
The Reds challenged the ruling and after a review, the call stood. Murphy eventually scored on a groundout by Willson Contreras (Willy the Beast). Heyward followed with an RBI triple, and he scored on an RBI single by Bote.
Hey there: Heyward has been bothered by a sore left ankle, and he was 0-for-14 in his past three games, but he recorded his fourth four-hit game of the season on Sunday, hitting an RBI triple in the first, an infield single in the third, an RBI single in the fifth and a single in the seventh. Heyward did not have a four-hit game last season.
"What was huge was J-Hey's at-bats," Bote said. "All the at-bats he had today with two outs, getting that triple there [in the first] and him grinding that at-bat with two outs and nobody on [in the third] -- he didn't get a good pitch to hit. He ended up getting the infield single and setting up the homer there. Credit to J-Hey, because he was on today."
With his performance on Sunday, Heyward has recorded the highest number of four-hit games in a single season in his career.
"Today, his hands were alive and the backside was firing, and that's why you're seeing that ball do that for him," Maddon said. "You saw how hot he got the last time he had a little time off. He's had two days off in a row. Let's see if he can pick it up again like he had."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The ball always seems to find the new guys. Ian Happ (Happer) was inserted into right field for Heyward in the eighth, and Phillip Ervin (Magic) tested him with a long fly ball to right. Happ had to back up into the ivy to catch it, but he made the play.
HE SAID IT
"With Daniel setting the tone at the top, I love the idea that Javy stands in the on-deck circle and watches him. I love that Rizzo is in the hole and he's watching. I like that guys are able to see him." -- Maddon, on the impact Murphy is having on the Cubs' lineup
Jonathan Lester (Lefthander) will open a three-game series against the Mets on Monday. Lester (14-5, 3.64 ERA) picked up his second win since the All-Star break in his last outing, holding the Tigers to one run over 5 2/3 innings. On June 3, he threw seven scoreless innings against the Mets in New York, giving up two hits and striking out seven. The Mets will counter with Noah Syndergaard (Thor), who is 9-3 with a 3.38 ERA. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT from Wrigley Field.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.