CINCINNATI -- Using power and small ball in the fourth inning, the Cubs scored three runs on their way to an 8-1 victory over the Reds on Friday night at Great American Ball Park. Chicago has won four of its last five games.
The Cubs' lead was 1-0 when Anthony Rizzo led off the fourth against Jon Moscot with a first-pitch home run to right field. Runners were on the corners with one out when David Ross dropped a successful squeeze bunt that scored Javier Baez. Moscot made a throwing error to first base on the play, putting runners on second and third. Pitcher Jon Lester followed and made it back-to-back squeeze bunts when his sacrifice scored Addison Russell.
"I finally got one to work for me," Lester said of his bunt.
Lester had his "best fastball of the year," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. The lefty had a largely smooth night with seven innings, giving up one earned run on five hits with one walk and four strikeouts. More >
In his second start of the season, Moscot labored with 96 pitches over five innings with four runs (three earned) on three hits, four walks and two strikeouts.
"That's just not a good performance by me," Moscot said. "It's kind of unacceptable, actually, to come out after a game like last night and not attack the hitters and be behind in most counts. It's frustrating on my part and unacceptable. I've just got to move forward."
The game was blown open when the Cubs scored four runs against J.J. Hoover in the ninth. Baez led off with a homer, with three additional runs crossing on three-straight two-out doubles. More >
"I like his adjustments at the plate," Maddon said of Baez. "He might get out of control with his swing once in a while, but then he comes back down to earth after that. He's learning. You can see the quality of his defense, and his baserunning is really high end."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Cozart goes deep: It was a 4-0 game when a 14-inning scoreless streak ended for Cincinnati in the sixth. Cozart slugged Lester's 2-1 pitch into the left-center-field seats for a leadoff homer. It was his first homer of the season, but he has been the club's hottest batter in the young season with hits in 11 of his 12 games The one hitless game was on Thursday during Jake Arrieta's no-hitter.
Power surge: A year ago, Rizzo hit two home runs in 20 April games. He belted his sixth of the season in the Cubs' 17th game on Friday, leading off the fourth inning with a shot to right. He now has 107 home runs with the Cubs, tied with Shawon Dunston for 18th on the franchise's all-time list. Rizzo has three dingers in his last five games, and 16 of his 17 RBIs have come on the road.
Check swing snaps skid: In the first inning with two outs against Lester, Joey Votto checked his swing but rolled a ball down an unguarded third-base line and into left field. It went for a single, and it also snapped a career-high 0-for-19 streak for the Reds' first baseman.
Super utility: In his first start at third, Baez nearly ignited a triple play in the fifth. The Reds had runners at first and second and no one out when Tyler Holt smacked the ball to Baez, who stepped on third for one out and fired to second baseman Ben Zobrist for out No. 2. Zobrist then threw to first, nearly getting Holt.
"Javy made a great play and got us out of somewhat of a jam, which could have turned the game momentum-wise," Maddon said. "It didn't surprise me that [Baez] attempted to do that. There's that court awareness."
Added Lester: "I've never seen a triple play, never been part of a triple play, and it would've been cool to get that. Just missed it by a step."
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With two homers allowed on Friday, the Reds' pitching staff leads the Majors with 30 home runs surrendered this season. Twenty of the long balls were given up over the last eight games.
"They have a nice club and can hit the ball out of the ballpark. But in order to hit a home run, you have to get a good pitch to hit. They're not digging at a pitch down and away or a pitch in on their hands, a well-located breaking ball or changeup and hitting those balls out of the ballpark. They're hitting pitches that are mistakes. They're typically hitting pitches that are later in the count, and they're seeing a lot of pitches. Give them credit that they don't expand their zones early. That's one of the reasons they've evolved as a team. They don't expand their strike zones early, so you have to throw a strike. They're not going to get themselves out on a first-pitch ball. The rules of pitching have not changed, ever. To pitch at this level, you have to be able to throw quality strikes to get ahead in the count." -- Reds manager Bryan Price
There were two outs in the eighth when Zobrist appeared to successfully steal second base with a head-first slide just ahead of a tag to his face by Brandon Phillips. The Reds challenged umpire Nic Lentz's call and it was overturned, as the replay official definitively felt that the tag was made in time, making that the third out of the inning.
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs:John Lackey will aim for the first 4-0 start of his career at 6:10 p.m. CT Saturday. The right-hander is 4-2 in 10 career starts against the Reds, and he faced them on April 13 at Wrigley Field. In that game, he gave up two runs over 6 2/3 innings.
Reds: Coming off of a solid first start, Dan Straily will get the ball again at 7:10 P.M. ET Saturday when the Reds continue the series against the Cubs. Straily, who briefly pitched for Chicago, threw 76 pitches over five innings vs. the Rockies on Monday and allowed one run.