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Cubs 5, Reds 2: Everyone Digs The Long Ball

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Late-inning homers sent the Cubs to victory in the series opener against the visitors from Cincinnati.

Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

The Cubs helped set a new major-league record Monday night. Not of their own, but for their opponent, and not one the Reds would have liked to set:

The previous record of 241 was held by the 1996 Tigers. Jason Heyward’s opposite-field homer in the eighth inning, a two-run blast that was the Cubs’ third of the night, was the record-breaker and solidified a Cubs lead that turned into a 5-2 win over the Reds that reduced their magic number to clinch the National League’s best record to five (it had, only a short time earlier, dropped to six when the Marlins beat the Nationals).

The early innings of this one had an eerie similarity to Sunday’s game, where the Cubs simply couldn’t score any runs. The only difference was fewer baserunners. The Cubs didn’t get anyone to second base until the sixth, when Anthony Rizzo hit a two-out double. That was only the fourth baserunner of the game. Ben Zobrist’s second-inning single, a fourth-inning single by Rizzo and Willson Contreras being hit by a pitch in the fifth were the others.

Jason Hammel was, at least, keeping the game close. Brandon Phillips launched a pitch into the left-field bleachers in the second to make it 1-0, and a triple by Hernan Iribarren and bloop single by Joey Votto scored the Reds’ second run in the sixth. Hammel still isn’t likely going to make the postseason roster (this Tribune article says Theo & Co. will have meetings beginning Tuesday to discuss who’ll be on it), but this outing was excellent: seven innings, four hits, two runs, one walk, six strikeouts. He’s been much better at Wrigley Field (1.84 ERA in 14 starts covering 83⅓ innings) than on the road (5.33 ERA in 15 starts covering 81 innings), so there’s that, at least, if the Cubs do decide to put him in the pen for the playoffs.

So this was shaping up as another dismal loss against a pitcher the Cubs hadn’t seen before (Reds rookie Tim Adleman) until Addison Russell led off the seventh inning. Russell’s 21st homer of the year [VIDEO] woke up the crowd and brought the Cubs within one run. Heyward was next and he hit a sinking line drive on which Iribarren made a nice diving catch. That led to the real excitement. Take it away, Willson Contreras:

The 461-foot distance is tied for the second-longest Cubs homer this year. And just where did that ball land?

The precise landing spot — I was watching the flight of the ball as it cleared the Nuveen sign and headed for the street -- was right above the first-floor window ot the right of the door (which has that little ledge right above it). Quite impressive! (You’ll note the two-foot difference in Dave’s tweet as opposed to the “official” distance.)

The Cubs weren’t done in that inning, either, but Adleman was. Blake Wood entered to replace Adleman and that did not help the Reds. Chris Coghlan doubled down the right-field line and one out later, Dexter Fowler gave the Cubs the lead:

Then it ewas up to the pen. Hector Rondon gave up two singles but finished a scoreless eighth, and with two out in the bottom of the inning Russell doubled. Heyward ran the count to 3-0 and got the green light, smashing a two-run homer [VIDEO] to left-center. That was his seventh of the year but first since August 22. After going through an 0-for-24 slump on the recent road trip, Heyward is 7-for-15 in his last four games with two doubles and a homer. I know, I know, we all keep thinking “this is the streak that breaks him out of his slump for good.” Maybe this time it will be. The Cubs could use his bat to be hot in the postseason.

Aroldis Chapman issued a walk and struck out a pair in finishing up for his 35th save (15th as a Cub).

The Cubs thus avoided losing three in a row. They haven’t lost more than two straight since before the All-Star break, and moved back to 40 games over .500. There have now been just three Cubs teams in the divisional-play era to win more: 1984 (96), 2008 (97) and 2015 (97), and this club seems primed to pass all of those and hit triple digits for the first time since 1935. Another thing accomplished Monday night that hadn’t happened since ‘35: Hammel’s 15th win gave the Cubs four 15-game winners, less meaningful now than it was 81 years ago, but still a feat worth noting.

A bit more on the Reds pitchers’ homer mark: 35 of the 242 homers have been hit by Cubs. That’s the most by any team against the Reds this year. Here’s the breakdown by Cubs player:

Kris Bryant: 9
Addison Russell: 7
Anthony Rizzo: 6
Ben Zobrist: 3
Javier Baez: 3
Willson Contreras: 2
Albert Almora Jr.: 1
Jake Arrieta: 1
Jason Heyward: 1
Tommy La Stella: 1
David Ross: 1

And the Cubs still have five more games remaining against these guys. Fun!

It was another beautiful day at the ballpark, and those who decided to come to this game instead of watching yet another Bears loss were rewarded with an entertaining and victorious evening. The weather has really cooperated this homestand, especially for late September. According to this Tribune article, this September was tied for the warmest on record in the Chicago area, and the National Weather Service’s 30-day outlook for October says above-normal temperatures could persist in this area all month. That’d be just perfect for postseason baseball.

Meanwhile, there are a few regular-season games still to be won, and until the Cubs clinch the league’s best record they do still have meaning. Tuesday night, Jon Lester goes for the Cubs and Josh Smith for the Reds.