Reds 5, Cubs 2
Dusty Baker doesn't like the suicide squeeze bunt - too many things can go wrong. The way things are going for the Cincinnati Reds these days, he needn't worry.
The Reds used another big inning - one featuring a perfectly executed squeeze - to beat the Chicago Cubs 5-2 on Sunday for their fifth win in a row. Todd Frazier drove in a pair of runs with a sacrifice fly and a single, and Derrick Robinson pulled off the bunt that put the Reds ahead to stay.
''Just an outstanding inning,'' Baker said.
Just one inning to an outstanding start.
The Reds have won 13 of their last 16 games, surging to 31-18. It's their best start since 1995, when they reached the NL championship series and got swept by Atlanta.
''This team has some big boys, veterans out on the field, and their pitching is some of the best in baseball,'' Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. ''It's tough to score on them. We're in all the games, but you can't add on or score on their bullpen.''
Cincinnati scored four times in the sixth off left-hander Travis Wood (4-3), extending its domination of the NL Central's last-place team. Chicago has lost a season-high six straight games.
Homer Bailey (3-3) gave up a pair of runs in six innings to a lineup that rarely has a big inning. Aroldis Chapman had a perfect ninth for his 12th save in 14 chances, hitting 100 mph with one pitch that sailed to the backstop.
The Reds won the first two games of the series in front of sell-out crowds. They've dominated the Cubs lately, winning 16 of their last 18 games in the series. The Reds are 19-5 against the Cubs over the last two seasons, including 7-1 this year.
Cincinnati won the series opener 7-4 on Friday with a five-run fourth inning that featured Ryan Hanigan's three-run homer. The catcher doubled home a run during Cincinnati's four-run sixth inning on Saturday.
The Reds didn't need any homers to pull away. Instead, they sent nine batters to the plate to stop Wood's impressive streak. The left-hander had nine quality starts to open the season, the best such streak by a Cubs pitcher since Mordecai Brown had 11 in 1908, the last time they won the World Series.
Frazier's RBI single tied it at 2, and the Reds pulled off that suicide squeeze to take the lead. Brandon Phillips was on third when Robinson swung at the first pitch but failed to put the ball in play, then got the sign for the bunt.
''That's part of my game,'' said Robinson, who practices it every day. ''I was kind of expecting it. We'd talked about it in the past. That was the perfect situation for it there.''
Baker thought so, too.
''I'm not crazy about it,'' the manager said. ''It's taking a heck of a chance. A lot of bad stuff can happen. He executed it perfectly. Brandon left on time.''
The run put Bailey in line for the win. Hanigan's double made it 4-2, and Cesar Izturis drove him home with a pinch-hit single.
''We have a good offense,'' said Bailey, who gave up five hits and two runs in six innings. ''They picked me up today. They'll do that more times than not. I didn't think they were going to hold us to two runs.''
Phillips had a single that extended his streak to 12 games. Joey Votto went 0 for 3, ending his season-best streak at 12 games.
Anthony Rizzo snapped an 0-for-22 slump with an RBI double in the second inning, slapping his hands when he reached second base. Rizzo scored on Alfonso Soriano's single for a 2-0 lead.
The Reds traded Wood to the Cubs in December 2011 as part of a package for reliever Sean Marshall, who went on the disabled list with a sore shoulder before the start of the series. The 26-year-old Wood finished last season strong and had kept it up. He couldn't beat his former team, falling to 0-2 in four starts against the Reds.
The Reds got a scare in the second inning when right fielder Jay Bruce and center fielder Shin-Soo Choo banged shoulders and fell to the warning track while chasing Welington Castillo's fly ball. Choo caught it and held on, and neither player was hurt.
NOTES: The Reds went 31-17 in 1995. ... Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto makes his second start since returning from the DL in the series finale Sunday. He'll face Matt Garza, also making his second start since returning from the DL. ... Rizzo also singled to center in the fifth, but Choo threw him out as he tried to stretch it to a double. ... The Reds had homered in each of their last nine games. ... The Cubs ended their streak of four straight games with an error.
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