Schwarber, Lester sharp in Cubs’ shutout of Reds
CHICAGO - Kyle Schwarber hit a two-run home run, added a two-run single and even danced in the dugout along to the song “YMCA.”
Now that the Chicago Cubs are wrapping up the regular season after clinching the National League Central, they can have some fun.
The home run gave Schwarber 30 for the season and led the Cubs’ 9-0 rout of the Cincinnati Reds in the penultimate game of the season Saturday afternoon.
“It’s been an up-and-down year,” said Schwarber, who’s batting .211 this season and spent some time at Triple-A Iowa when his offense was struggling. “I’m happy about it, but I’m not really too focused on it at all. (Thirty home runs is) a cool accomplishment, but I’m more focused on the bigger picture here, which is the postseason coming up.”
Jon Lester threw five scoreless innings for the defending World Series champions, who have won 15 of their last 18 games.
Lester (13-8) struck out seven and gave up four hits and no walks in his fifth victory in six starts and second scoreless outing of the season. He also threw seven scoreless innings April 16 against Pittsburgh.
“I kind of look at it as kind of a normal game,” Lester said. “We all knew that it was going to be a shorter day. I still tried to take the mindset of, ‘You give me the ball and I’ll try to finish the game,’ so it was good to be crisp. It was good to have good command.”
Starter Jackson Stephens (2-1) gave up four runs and four hits, struck out five and walked three in four innings for the Reds, who have lost 10 of their last 11 games and were shut out for the eighth time this season.
“I’m glad he’s had an opportunity to be here in the big leagues this year,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “We’ve got a kid that’s just recently turned 23 years old. He’s gonna be good and now he’s had an opportunity to get his feet wet up here, get some repetitions, gets some starts, some relief opportunities, and he’ll be better for the experience heading into next season.”
Schwarber hit a two-run home run in the second inning after Willson Contreras led off with a single. Schwarber has six home runs in his last 15 games.
“This is my favorite time of the year,” Schwarber said. “This is when things start coming to the nitty gritty. It brings out the best in everyone.”
Schwarber also had a two-run, broken-bat single with the bases loaded in the third inning to extend the Cubs’ lead to 4-0.
“I was throwing balls over the plate. I wasn’t commanding pitches like I wanted to,” Stephens said.
Two runs scored on Rene Rivera’s single when right fielder Scott Schebler lost the ball in the sun in the sixth inning. Ian Happ added a sacrifice fly and Tommy La Stella drew a bases-loaded walk in the four-run inning.
Rivera hit his 10th home run, a solo shot, in the seventh inning. He had three RBIs.
La Stella struck out looking on the 17th pitch he saw from Reds reliever Asher Wojciechowski in the fifth inning.
“It was something, it really was,” Price said. “La Stella battles. He’s a scrappy player. It seems like every time they put him in there he does something good for them.”
The Cubs continued to provide some rest to regulars, starting with first baseman Anthony Rizzo exiting the game after three innings and right fielder Jason Heyward and third baseman Kris Bryant departing after four innings.
NOTES: The Cubs have yet to announce their starting rotation for the National League Division Series. ...Reds INF Zach Vincej got his first career hit on a single in the eighth inning. ...INF Zack Cozart (quad) was out of the Reds lineup. ...Reds 1B Joey Votto is on pace to start all 162 games this season. He would be the first Reds player to start every game in a non-strike regular season since Pete Rose in 1975. ...Votto had his second three-strikeout game of the season Saturday. The other was Aug. 18 at Atlanta. ...Cubs OF Albert Almora (shoulder) returned to action after crashing into the wall Tuesday in St. Louis.