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De La Rosa, Happ save the day, lead still 1 1/2

Veteran pitcher earns first career save in 426 games; center fielder busts slump with decisive homer
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- It's literally everybody in as far as the Cubs' bullpen is concerned.

Without a designated closer, Cubs manager Joe Maddon turned to veteran Jorge De La Rosa on Friday night and the left-hander notched his first save in his 426th career game. Ian Happ smacked a three-run homer with one out in the seventh, and De La Rosa got the final three outs in the Cubs' 3-2 victory over the Reds in a rare Friday night game at Wrigley Field.

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CHICAGO -- It's literally everybody in as far as the Cubs' bullpen is concerned.

Without a designated closer, Cubs manager Joe Maddon turned to veteran Jorge De La Rosa on Friday night and the left-hander notched his first save in his 426th career game. Ian Happ smacked a three-run homer with one out in the seventh, and De La Rosa got the final three outs in the Cubs' 3-2 victory over the Reds in a rare Friday night game at Wrigley Field.

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The win helped the Cubs maintain their 1 1/2-game lead in the National League Central over the Brewers, who beat the Pirates, 7-4, on Friday.

Video: CIN@CHC: Maddon on Baez's defense, Happ's HR in win

"We made good pitches when we had to, made great plays when we had to, one big hit when we needed it, and pretty entertaining evening," Maddon said.

Trailing 2-0 against the Reds' David Hernandez, Victor Caratini singled to lead off the seventh and David Bote reached on an error by third baseman Eugenio Suarez. Bote was forced out at second on pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella's grounder, and Happ followed with his 15th homer of the season.

"That can be very big for [Happ]," Maddon said. "He's been battling. I've had a lot of conversations with him. By no means has he ever quit or given up. He's just been frustrated. That's a big moment for him and for us."

Video: CIN@CHC: Happ crushes go-ahead 3-run smash in 7th

The home run was Happ's first at Wrigley since July 19, and ended an 0-for-15 stretch.

"It's been a while since I've had one of those -- it's been a while since I've had a hit," Happ said. "To get a hit in that situation, coming off what we've had to do in the last couple weeks and give us a chance to win a ball game, that was great."

Video: CIN@CHC: Happ on approach during his go-ahead homer

Instead of playing at 1:20 p.m. CT on Friday, the Cubs-Reds game was switched to accommodate Chicago after it traveled Thursday for a make-up game in Washington against the Nationals. It was a quick trip: First baseman Anthony Rizzo wore his road uniform there and back.

Tweet from @ARizzo44: Staying game ready. pic.twitter.com/84dgPUPm9Y

But the trip also was costly. The Cubs have maintained their lead in the Central without closer Brandon Morrow, who has been sidelined since mid-July. On Friday, they learned that Pedro Strop would not pitch again in the regular season because of a hamstring injury.

It was De La Rosa's turn in the ninth.

"I've pitched against De La Rosa so many times and watched him over in Colorado, and to be able to see what he's done in that transition to the bullpen, I know it's not easy," Chicago starter Cole Hamels said. "When you pitch your years as a starter, it can be difficult to understand what to do, especially in that situation; a save situation. It's not like we were up by three where you can ease into it. You have to commend him for it.

"It's great to see, because I know a lot of guys will be called upon. This will really build some confidence for guys to get the job done."

Jaime Garcia was part of the "unlikely bullpen," as Maddon described it. The lefty had to deal with the Reds' 3-4-5 hitters in the eighth.

Video: CIN@CHC: Garcia strikes out Suarez in perfect 8th

"I think the biggest part [of the game] was the way the bullpen has shown up for us, literally using everybody -- everybody in," Happ said. "Guys giving us great outings, great stuff and giving us everything they've got."

Hamels skipped the trip to Washington and stayed in Chicago. The lefty had allowed just one home run in his first eight starts with the Cubs and was efficient in the first three innings, but Jose Peraza and Joey Votto connected on consecutive homers to lead off the fourth. Hamels exited after throwing 109 pitches over 6 2/3 innings and despite allowing the two runs, he still has a stellar 1.57 ERA with the Cubs.

Video: CIN@CHC: Hamels strikes out 7 over 6 2/3 innings

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Right place, right time: After the Reds' back-to-back homers, the fourth inning continued as Suarez walked and Scooter Gennett singled. Both advanced on a fielding error by left fielder Kris Bryant but shortstop Javier Baez made a dazzling defensive play on Curt Casali's grounder, throwing home for the force. Caratini had to do a spin move to make the tag, but held on.

Video: CIN@CHC: Baez throws home to cut down Suarez in 4th

"Javy, that was outstanding," Hamels said. "What I was intending to try to do was get a ground ball or swing and miss. That's Javy being himself. He's a tremendous defender and to make that play, you also have to look at Caratini for catching that. That's tough on him."

Game changer: Garcia and De La Rosa likely never thought they'd be expected to pitch in such key situations as they did on Friday. Both are converted starters, both still adjusting to relief roles. Maddon said he wanted Garcia to face Votto, Suarez and Gennett because the lefty was "more rested." Caratini made three mound visits with De La Rosa during at-bats against Tucker Barnhart and Billy Hamilton to make sure they were on the same page. Maddon liked that matchup because De La Rosa's split-finger pitch is effective against right-handed hitters.

"That's one of those growth moments for everybody," Maddon said. "That gives you options as you move along."

SOUND SMART
• This was the first time Hamels allowed multiple runs at Wrigley Field since 2006, when he yielded nine as a rookie. The lefty had gone eight starts in a row in which he gave up no more than one run, the longest streak ever at Wrigley.

• Hamels' seventh strikeout was No. 2,396 of his career, which ties him with Sandy Koufax for 48th on the career strikeout list.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
With a runner at first and one out in the Reds' seventh, Happ made a nice running catch in center field to rob Scott Schebler of an extra-base hit.

Video: CIN@CHC: Happ makes basket catch to rob Schebler

"That's one I've had trouble with, right over the head," Happ said. "I've been working with [coach] Will Venable on that and talking through it. That was one where I really trusted myself going back on it. I didn't spin around in circles like you've seen in the past. Going back on it, especially at Wrigley, that felt pretty good."

HE SAID IT
"The Brewers are tough. They're a very, very hot team right now. They have tremendous talent there. You can't look at what they're going to do. They're probably going to win all their games. That's the mentality you have to keep. They're going to win their games, and we have to take care of ourselves and really worry about the scoreboard that we have." -- Hamels

"I didn't sense fatigue from the guys. It was, 'Wow, they're ready to play.' Energy-wise on defense, the conversation, banter in the dugout, supporting one another, it was all there. We've got to get back to our offensive methods so we can split these games open a little bit and win them, and take some of the angst off the bullpen." -- Maddon

UP NEXT
Jon Lester (15-6, 3.57 ERA) will start the second game of this weekend series on Saturday. Lester had to leave his last outing against the Brewers after 5 2/3 innings because of back spasms. The lefty is 1-0 in two starts against the Reds this season, allowing five runs over 12 1/3 innings. The Reds will counter with Cody Reed (0-2, 5.08). First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. CT at Wrigley Field.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Ian Happ, Jorge De La Rosa