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Reds sweep Cubs, now bring on the Cards

Reds sweep Cubs, now bring on the Cards

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CHICAGO -- Heading into their biggest series of the season, the Reds don't just have momentum before playing the Cardinals. They're holding down the turbo-boost button and zooming.

An 11-4 win over the Cubs on Sunday at Wrigley Field gave the first-place Reds a three-game series sweep and completed a 5-1 road trip. It also inched their National League Central lead to two full games over the Cardinals, who were rained out in Florida.

Cincinnati, which has also won seven of its last eight games to reach a season-high 16 games over .500 at 64-48, will open a three-game series with St. Louis on Monday at Great American Ball Park. In their last 13 series, the Reds are 11-1-1, including 6-0-1 since the All-Star break.

"What we're looking forward to is us being on a roll," said left fielder Jonny Gomes, who was 1-for-1 with a career-high four walks and four runs scored. "It's more important than the standings right now. We're playing good right now. Coming into this hostile environment with the Cubs and taking a sweep from them shows a lot of character about this team."

It was the first time the Cubs have been swept at home this season and the first by the Reds at Wrigley Field in a three-game series since Aug. 8-10, 2005.

Reds rookie Travis Wood stifled Cubs hitters for much of the afternoon as he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. The left-hander had faced the minimum through the first 16 batters until Koyie Hill broke up the no-hit bid with a one-out lined single to left field in the Cubs' sixth.

"I felt good today. I came out and my pitches were working good," Wood said. "I could throw them all for strikes. The fact they came out swinging, I was able to get some early outs."

This wasn't the first time Wood flirted with a no-hitter in his short big league career. On July 10 in Philadelphia, he took a perfect game into the ninth inning before giving up a leadoff double.

"I tried not to think about it," Wood said. "Giving up that hit, it was nothing. I went back and got the next hitter and got out of the inning."

Wood had only 56 pitches through six innings as he cruised along. His only early blemish was a Xavier Nady leadoff walk in the third, and Nady was erased when Hill grounded into a double play.

"He had some five- and six-pitch innings, which means he was throwing strikes and quality strikes," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

Wood, who debuted in the Majors at Wrigley, is now 3-1 with a 2.65 ERA in eight starts this season. He finished with four runs (three earned) and four hits allowed over 6 1/3 innings. He walked two and struck out three and finished with 77 pitches.

"He's tough," Cubs second baseman Jeff Baker said. "We saw his numbers coming in. He throws strikes and is aggressive and pitches with a lot of confidence. We couldn't get his pitch count up. It was a battle for us."

Using a lineup without the resting Scott Rolen and Brandon Phillips, the Reds still put together 13 hits. But they didn't need a big offensive engine to give Wood an 8-0 lead after six innings, as Cubs starter Thomas Diamond (0-2) was knocked out after only three frames.

Five of those first seven runs scored on outs, including three sacrifice flies and two fielder's-choice plays -- both by Juan Francisco. With two outs in the top of the first, Jay Bruce's two-run double to right field gave the Reds a 2-0 lead. Bruce snapped out of a long funk with a 3-for-4 day.

Ryan Hanigan's second sac fly of the day in the fifth inning made it a seven-run game. Paul Janish made it 8-0 with an RBI single in the seventh.

"You have to do those little things, and sometimes they create big innings," Dusty Baker said. "We didn't really have a big inning. We had a lot of small innings that added up to a big score."

Jeff Baker led off the Cubs' seventh with a home run, and Derrek Lee walked. A routine grounder to Francisco at third base led to two runs scoring because of a throwing error. Nady's RBI double made it a four-run game and ended Wood's day.

"They had been getting closer and closer to hitting stuff and stay out there on it when I was going away and able to get to it inside," Wood said. "But that seventh inning, I really don't know. Maybe my pitches were a bit more elevated and they were able to get to them. They put some good swings and were able to hit the ball hard."

In the eighth, Votto's 28th homer of the season was a two-run shot to left field against Mitch Atkins that helped the Reds pull away again. Votto matched Gomes with four runs scored, also his career high.

Now, it's time to bring on the Cardinals. Baker had avoided all talk of St. Louis during the road trip.

"Now, it's here and now we deal with it," Baker said. "It's going to be exciting. It's going to be fun, and it's the next-to-last series where we know we can take care of our own business. It will be tough. This is what championship baseball is all about."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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