Happ’s blast lifts Cubs over Reds
CHICAGO — Ian Happ was not part of the Chicago Cubs roster to start the season but he’s having a big impact at the end.
The versatile rookie, who played third base on Friday, slugged his 24th home run of the season on Friday. The three-run shot in the eighth inning helped the Cubs to a 5-4 come-from-behind victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
“He’s so deceptively strong,” said Cub manager Joe Maddon. “When he hits the ball it’s really loud and it goes far. His versatility — the fact that third base is not necessarily in his portfolio yet — I can see him doing that and second base and, of course, all the outfield positions.
“He’s a switch-hitter, runs well, throws well. He does a lot of good baseball things.”
Happ, who has played at five defensive positions this season, went 2-for-4 and recorded his fifth game-winning RBI of the season.
“Home runs at Wrigley definitely never get old,” said Happ, who now has the second most all-time homers by a switch-hitting rookie behind Pittsburgh’s Josh Bell (26).
Happ’s homer came on a 1-1 pitch off right-handed reliever Michael Lorenzen as the National League Central champion Cubs (91-69) won their third straight and fifth in six games.
Lorenzen (8-4) took the loss after working two-thirds of an inning as the Reds (67-93) dropped their ninth in 10 games.
Cubs reliever Brian Duensing (1-1) earned the win after working a scoreless eighth. Reliever Justin Grimm pitched a one-two-three ninth inning for his first save of the season.
Cubs starter Jose Quintana worked 4 2/3 innings and received a no-decision. Reds starter Robert Stephenson also didn’t factor in a decision in his five-inning outing.
“Truth be told I don’t really have a whole lot else to say about this,” said Cincinnati manager Bryan Price. “We’ve got some things to work on between now and spring training but I’m not going to get into specifics. I’m just tired of watching us lose games that are there to win.”
Reds first baseman Joey Votto continued his push for a National League batting title with a 2-for-4 afternoon and his 100th RBI.
He moved into a tie for second in the NL with the Dodgers’ Justin Turner with a .321 average after Friday’s loss. Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon tops the league with a .328 average.
Tommy La Stella had a 2-for-4 afternoon for Chicago.
The Cubs opened a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second as Quintana’s sacrifice bunt drove in Happ and Jon Jay’s subsequent sacrifice to center scored Alex Avila.
The Reds took a 4-2 lead in the fifth inning as Scott Schebler’s single to right scored Jesse Winker and Tucker Barnhart followed with a base hit to center to bring home Jose Peraza to force a 2-2 tie.
Stephenson bunted into a double play but the Cubs couldn’t get out of the inning as Quintana gave up an RBI single to Phillip Ervin, scoring Barnhart, and left the game.
Votto greeted right-handed reliever Felix Pena with a base hit to shallow right center to score Ervin for a 4-2 lead.
Quintana threw 81 pitches through 4 2/3 innings and was charged with four runs and six hits while striking out five.
“I thought he threw well,” Maddon said. “He gave up some ground ball base hits. I just did not want to push him past 80 pitches.”
Stephenson worked five innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on four hits. He walked two and struck out none.
NOTES: The Reds hit no home runs on Friday despite having six players with at least 20 for the first time in club history, including: Joey Votto (36), Adam Duvall (31), Scott Schebler (30), Scooter Gennett (27), Eugenio Suarez (26) and Zack Cozart (24). ... Votto started his 160th game of the season on Friday, one of two big league players to start every 2017 game, joining Kansas City SS Alcides Escobar. ... The Reds send RHP Jackson Stephens (2-0, 3.86 ERA) in Saturday’s middle game against Cubs LHP Jon Lester (12-8, 4.46 ERA), who is expected to pitch limited innings. ... Cubs manager Joe Maddon said other position players would also have shortened appearances or have time off this weekend. ... The Cubs staged a modest on-field celebration of their NL Central Division title prior to Friday’s game with video highlights of the season followed by players coming out of the dugout to tip their hats to fans.