Key arms impress for Cubs in front of record crowd

Lester, late-inning relievers shine for largest Spring Training crowd ever

Key arms impress for Cubs in front of record crowd

MESA, Ariz. -- Brennan Boesch hit a three-run homer to highlight a five-run seventh inning and lead the Reds to a 5-2 victory over the Cubs Friday in front of 15,331 at Sloan Park, the biggest crowd ever for a Spring Training game in either the Cactus League or Grapefruit League.

Jon Lester, who will start Opening Night April 5 for the Cubs, struck out three of the first four batters he faced, allowing just one hit in two scoreless innings.

Reds starter Tony Cingrani gave up two hits and struck out two over two innings. It was Cingrani's first game for the Reds since June 19 after missing the rest of the season with shoulder problems. The lefty has been healthy in camp and is trying to earn one of the two open rotation spots.

Cingrani got a boost of confidence in the first against Javier Baez.

"Yeah, once Javier took that big cut on that 1-0 swing, I got amped up and got ahead of myself," Cingrani said. "Then after that, I was fine. I worked inside on guys, threw a couple of sliders and a couple of good changeups. It was good work."

Baez, by the way, struck out swinging. Cingrani still has work to do.

"There are still things to do that I need to get better at," he said. "Calm myself down and hitting some spots more. I had 0-2 on [Mike] Olt and I walked him. Other than that, it was pretty good."

Jason Motte, another free agent the Cubs signed, made his debut, and faced four batters in the third, giving up one hit. Cubs closer Hector Rondon walked the first batter he faced, retired Todd Frazier on a popup, and served up a double to Jay Bruce.

Matt Szczur tripled to open the Chicago fifth against Pedro Villarreal and scored on Jonathan Herrera's bunt single.

Cubs outfielder Junior Lake had to leave the game in the fourth after an awkward slide into second base as he advanced on a wild pitch. Lake was accidentally hit in the face by second baseman Brandon Phillips and suffered a bruise, but he was able to walk off the field under his own power.

Cubs up next: Jason Hammel makes his first Cactus League start on Saturday as the Cubs travel to Scottsdale, Ariz., to face the Rockies. Hammel is back for a second time with the Cubs. He started the 2014 season with the team, then was dealt on July 4 to the Athletics. The right-hander, who was 8-5 with a 2.98 ERA in 17 starts with the Cubs, signed a two-year deal as a free agent to return in December. This will be the first Cubs game broadcast on new flagship radio station, WBBM.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.