CINCINNATI -- Jon Lester's final tuneup for the postseason-bound Cubs did not yield a 20th victory. Instead, it was the Reds who spoiled his Saturday afternoon during a 7-4 victory as Joey Votto collected three hits and three RBIs as a majority of blue-shirted Cubs fans were among the 30,970
CINCINNATI -- Jon Lester's final tuneup for the postseason-bound Cubs did not yield a 20th victory. Instead, it was the Reds who spoiled his Saturday afternoon during a 7-4 victory as Joey Votto collected three hits and three RBIs as a majority of blue-shirted Cubs fans were among the 30,970 at Great American Ball Park.
Lester, who entered 5-0 with two earned runs allowed (0.41 ERA) over his previous six starts, was tapped by Cincinnati for five earned runs and six hits over five innings with three walks and six strikeouts. The Reds took a 4-0 lead through three innings, with Eugenio Suárez's three RBIs providing the momentum, including a two-run homer.
"Jonny's command was not 100 percent," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "His stuff was good regarding velocity, but overall, just execution of his pitches was just off a click. It just wasn't wanting to work today. He wasn't physically fine. He's not going to be perfect every time."
It was the fourth time in 18 meetings this season that the Reds topped the Cubs. Starting pitcher Tim Adleman pitched five innings for the win and allowed three runs and six hits but had to hang on when Chicago rallied for three runs in the fourth inning -- including Jason Heyward's two-run double. In the fifth inning, Adleman escaped by leaving the bases loaded.
"I knew it was going to be a tough game going into it," said Adleman, who finished his rookie season 4-4 with a 4.00 ERA. "Especially with Lester, everybody in that [Cubs] clubhouse wants him to get his 20th win, and to do it here at our home park where at times it didn't feel like our home park. The place was flooded with Cubs fans. It was a sweet victory today. You can't take anything away from what Lester's done and the Cubs have done, but it was nice to get a win today."
The Reds had a 7-3 lead in the eighth inning when Ben Zobrist put the Cubs back within striking distance with a one-out solo home run to right field against Michael Lorenzen. It was Zobrist's third homer in the past two days. Raisel Iglesias delivered a perfect top of the ninth for his sixth save.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
No. 21 for Suarez: The Reds already had a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Suarez connected on a Lester 3-1 pitch and lifted it the opposite way for a two-run homer into the right corner. It was Suarez's 21st homer of the season, adding to his career high. That also ended his 0-for-12 slump and a 29-game streak without a homer. His last home run was on Aug. 30 at the Angels. For Lester, it was just the fifth homer he's allowed since the All-Star break.
Fourth inning:Dexter Fowler singled to lead off for the Cubs, but Adleman then retired 10 in a row before Anthony Rizzo hit an opposite-field single in the fourth. One out later, Addison Russell walked, and he and Rizzo scored on Heyward's double that right fielder Patrick Kivlehan misjudged. Heyward scored on Javier Báez's single to pull within one run, although Baez was a little aggressive on the basepaths and thrown out. Fowler also singled with two outs in the seventh for his 1,000th career hit.
"I've still got some work to do," Fowler said. "I'm trying to get to 3,000. At this rate, I'll have to play 24 seasons. I've got to speed it up a little bit."
Start me up: Lester was vying to become the National League's first 20-game winner. However, a 26-pitch second inning and 31-pitch third made it tough. He did last five innings, though the lefty went one batter more than expected. Lester thought he had struck out Suarez to end the fifth, and both he and catcher David Ross headed toward the dugout. But home-plate umpire Tom Hallion said it was ball four. Lester, expected to start Game 1 of the NL Division Series on Friday, finished the season 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA, 202 2/3 innings and 197 strikeouts.
"[This season] will probably go down as one of the better, if not best years of my career," Lester said. "Hopefully, there's a couple more to come. Now we have the real business to get down to." More >
Not coasting to finish: Votto was 3-for-5 with two doubles to push his batting average to a season-high .326, after he had been at .213 on May 31. Votto provided the game's first run with an RBI groundout that scored José Peraza in the first inning, and he added a single in the third. After the Cubs made it a one-run game, Votto returned in the fifth with a key RBI double to right field that scored Iván De Jesús Jr. He added an RBI double to right-center field and scored in the seventh against Héctor Rondón. Votto has 97 RBIs for the season and will enter Game 162 on Sunday with a chance at a 100-RBI season for the first time since 2011. He is batting .411 since the All-Star break, leaving him in good position to be baseball's first .400 hitter in the second half since Ichiro Suzuki in 2004.
"I don't want to underappreciate it," Reds manager Bryan Price said of Votto's second-half performance. "I've said that before. It's just been something to see how often he gets the barrel of the bat to the ball. The other thing is he's producing a lot more runs. His run production as far as driving in runs has gone up."
"We didn't make it easy on him. But I don't think he was his sharpest. It takes an opposing team to go out there and take advantage of the pitches he does give us to hit and the mistakes he does make, and we did that today." -- Price, on his lineup facing Lester
"I don't want to sound like a [jerk] or anything, but we haven't done anything yet. The 100 wins are great. We've had a lot of personal achievements. The big thing for this team is we're consistent. We show up every day ready to play, and that's huge, especially with the young group we have. That's a hard thing to learn at a young age. … What it comes down to, this season isn't anything unless we do what we showed up in Spring Training to do and win a World Series. The 100 and whatever wins is great, all the personal stuff is great. This is go time now. Now we have to live up to the expectations and the hype." -- Lester, looking ahead to the postseason
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Cubs have hit a home run in 11 straight games at Great American Ball Park, and have hit 24 homers total there this season. Ben Zobrist's solo homer in the eighth was the 40th by Chicago against Cincinnati pitching, the most ever in a single season by an opposing team against the Reds.
Cubs: How low can Kyle Hendricks get his ERA? Hendricks, who leads the Major Leagues with a 1.99 ERA, will close the regular season on Sunday against the Reds. Hendricks is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in two starts against the Reds this year. Since June 19, the right-hander is 12-2 with a 1.29 ERA in 18 outings (17 starts). First pitch will be 2:10 p.m. CT from Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
Reds: The 2016 season will close with Sunday's 3:10 p.m. ET finale and rookie Robert Stephenson will get the start for the Reds and will look to end his year on a high note. Stephenson is 0-3 with an 8.14 ERA in five starts since returning to the big leagues.
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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.