CHICAGO (AP) — Jameson Taillon pitched five-plus innings for his fourth straight win, and the surging Chicago Cubs held on to beat Cincinnati 5-3 Thursday night, knocking the Reds out of first place in the NL Central.
Ian Happ, Cody Bellinger and Yan Gomes drove in runs for Chicago, which won for the 13th time in 16 games and claimed the final three games of a four-game set with the Reds.
Milwaukee, a 14-1 winner over Pittsburgh, moved into first place in the division, a half-game ahead of the Reds. The Cubs, at 56-53, are 2½ games back of the Brewers.
“I think it’s just another defining moment that we have a really good team,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “That is a good team over there in our division that we’re chasing.”
Rookie Elly De La Cruz led off the game with a deep solo shot and Spencer Steer’s team-leading 18th homer in the eighth was his second hit for Cincinnati.
Taillon (6-6) exited after one hitter in the sixth, and earned his fourth win in five outings. He allowed two runs on seven hits while striking out five. The right-hander has a 2.08 ERA in his last five outings.
“I grinded, kept us in the game and our bullpen just had like an electric night,” Taillon said.
Three Chicago relievers followed. Adbert Alzolay got the final four outs for his 13th save.
Chicago’s Christopher Morel and Jeimer Candelario got credit for RBIs when they walked with the bases loaded in the Cubs’ three-run third.
Chicago cashed in on wildness by Reds starter Luke Weaver (2-4) in the inning, taking a 4-1 lead on just one hit and four passes. Nico Hoerner, who doubled in the first, started the rally by striking out on a wild pitch and hustling to first with two outs.
“Luke had been pitching well to that point,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Once he had to work harder and throw more pitches, it just caught up to him.”
Weaver waxed about what should have been an inning-ending whiff.
“We get the strikeout and obviously it’s a tough pitch, it’s an in-between one,” Weaver said. “It’s on me to come back strong and throw a couple of good pitches there in the next at-bat.”
This Chicago victory was a far cry from Tuesday and Wednesday, when the Cubs scored 36 combined runs, their most in a two-game span since June 29-30, 1897. For the series, Chicago outscored Cincinnati 46-24.
“They scored a lot of runs in this series as well,” Ross said. “Our pitching just kept making pitches and our hitters kept grinding at-bats and scoring runs.”
De La Cruz hit Taillon’s first pitch 424 feet into the right-center bleachers. The Cubs tied it at 1 in the bottom half on consecutive doubles by Hoerner and Happ.
Chicago jumped ahead in the third.
Hoerner reached despite striking out. After Happ walked, Bellinger singled in Hoerner. Weaver then issued three straight passes to make it 4-1.
Cincinnati cut it 4-2 in the fourth on Luke Maile’s double-play grounder. Steer’s solo shot to the right-center basket off Julian Merryweather trimmed it to 4-3, but Gomes sac fly in the bottom half of the eighth made it 5-3
Bell was ejected in the bottom of the third inning by plate umpire Derek Thomas for jumping onto the field and arguing animatedly after Weaver issued his fourth walk.
Bell said he was supporting his pitcher, but not upset with calls. “It had nothing to do with the strike zone, to be honest,” Bell said
Bell was booted for the sixth time this season and 26th time in his career.
Cubs: RHP Brad Boxberger (right forearm strain) and RHP Ethan Roberts (Tommy John surgery) are slated to throw bullpen sessions on Friday. … RHP Nick Burdi (appendectomy) will toss live batting practice at the team’s Arizona training facility on Friday.
Reds RHP Graham Ashcraft (6-7, 5.31) starts on Friday night against Washington LHP Patrick Corbin (7-11, 5.07) in the opener of a three-game series in Cincinnati.
Cubs RHP Kyle Hendricks (4-5, 3.49) takes the mound on Friday afternoon versus Atlanta LHP Max Fried (2-1, 2.08) to open a three-game set at Wrigley Field. Fried, a runner-up for the NL Cy Young Award last year, comes off the IL (strained left forearm) to pitch for the first time since May 5.