CINCINNATI — Ian Happ had four RBIs while Mike Tauchman and Cody Bellinger each drove in three to help the Chicago Cubs cruise to a 15-7 rout of the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday and earn a split of a critical four-game series between the contending divisional rivals.
Chicago moved three games ahead of Cincinnati in the National League Central and currently holds the second NL wildcard. The Reds, Diamondbacks, Giants and Marlins are in a tight battle for the third and final wildcard spot.
Nick Madrigal and Tauchman each drove in two with bases-loaded singles off Reds All-Star closer Alexis Diaz in the seven-run Cubs eighth. Bellinger drove in another with a sacrifice fly, and a double by Dansby Swanson pushed two more across before the Reds could get out of it.
“I feel like how our offense goes — it starts with a soft single here and a soft single there, and then we kind of continue to put together good at-bats and it feels kind of contagious,” Tauchmann said.
The Cubs, who banged out 18 hits, added three more runs in the ninth, including a solo homer by Jeimer Candelario.
The Chicago victory came after ninth-inning walk-off wins by the Reds in the second game of a doubleheader on Friday and again Saturday.
Tyler Stephenson had three RBIs for the Reds, including a two-run homer in the second inning. TJ Friedl and Spencer Steer hit back-to-back homers in the first inning off Cubs starter Jameson Taillon.
“We won two and so that’s a positive thing,” Stephenson said. “We’re past this game, and we have so big games coming up. Things didn’t go our way today.”
Reliever Daniel Palencia (5-0) got the win for the Cubs.
Carson Spiers, called up from Double-A Chattanooga Friday after three Reds pitchers went to the COVID-19 injury list, made his major league debut with the start.
He was roughed up early but settled down to retire the Cubs in order in the third and fourth innings before giving way to six relievers. Derek Law (4-5), who surrendered three runs without getting an out in the eighth took the loss.
“Carson Spiers pitched a good game for us,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It all happened really fast for him, and I think he got better as he went. He gave us everything he had.”
Cubs starter Jameson Taillon had some tough going early, too. After he struck out Nick Martini in the Reds first before Friedl and Steer homered. Stephenson followed with his two-run shot in the second to give the Reds a 4-3 lead.
Bellinger led off the Cubs sixth with a 407-foot homer to center — his third of the series — that chased Spiers.
The Cubs and Reds struck out a combined 23 times.
“We scored a lot of runs in this series,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “I know in those middle games the guys would have liked to have add on. I know these guys put a lot of pressure on themselves, especially when you get good pitching.”
IN THE SHOW
Thin on pitching because of injuries and four on the COVID-19 list, the 25-year-old Spiers was thrust into the spot start with his parents in the stands to watch. The Clemson product, who was drafted by the Reds in 2020, had just six previous appearances and one start above Double-A. He allowed three runs and five hits, striking out seven and walking two. Starters Hunter Greene, Ben Lively and Brandon Williamson, along with reliever Fernando Cruz, could return in a about a week.
“It’s everything you dream of,” Spiers said.
Cubs: Left-hander Justin Steele (15-3) will be on the mound to open a series Monday against San Francisco at Wrigley Field. Right-hander Logan Webb (9-11) is set to go for the Giants.
Reds: Right-hander Brian Woo (2-3) is the scheduled starter for the Seattle Mariners on Monday against a Reds pitcher still to be determined in the first of a three-game series in Cincinnati.
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