CHICAGO – The Cubs are starting to show the pop that helped propel them to their first championship in 108 years.
For that, manager Joe Maddon credited their starting pitching.
Javier Baez hit a grand slam, Kris Bryant homered and the Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds 9-5 Thursday to complete a three-game sweep.
“Starting pitching drives the engine,” Maddon said. “I will never be deceived by that thought. While that’s happening, you have a chance to hit better just by keeping the other team down. Guys get a chance to get in the flow and do their thing.”
Chicago outscored Cincinnati 25-15 in the series after struggling at the plate for much of this season. The Cubs have 23 wins in their last 28 games against the Reds.
Baez came through with three hits and a season-high five RBIs. He got the rout going when he capped a five-run first inning against Amir Garrett (3-3) with his third career slam.
Bryant hit his eighth homer this season in the fourth, a long solo drive to center, and the Cubs scored three in the fifth to take a 9-0 lead.
Jon Lester (2-2) followed up solid starts from John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks by allowing three runs and six hits in six-plus innings. He improved to 11-0 in his last 15 regular-season home starts. Lester left with a 9-1 lead after giving up singles to Jose Peraza, Tucker Barnhart and Arismendy Alcantara in the seventh.
Chicago’s Japanese reliever Koji Uehara got his first save this season after he entered with the bases loaded and no outs in the ninth. He retired Adam Duvall on a sacrifice fly, then struck out Eugenio Suarez and Stuart Turner, both on three pitches.
“We’re trending in the right direction, which is good,” Lester said.
Cincinnati has lost six straight, its longest skid since dropping 11 in a row last May. Recalled from Triple-A Louisville, Garrett gave up six runs and five hits in four innings. He walked four — three in the first inning.
“We didn’t throw strikes here,” manager Bryan Price said. “This was not a series where we did what we’re capable of doing as a staff. We didn’t throw enough strikes and it exacerbates a problem.”