CINCINNATI — Amid all the history made by Kris Bryant on Monday night, the most important thing to happen for the Chicago Cubs is that they got a victory.
Bryant became the first player in major league history to hit three home runs and have two doubles in a game. He also went 5-for-5, set career highs in hits and RBIs and played three different positions.
But manager Joe Maddon’s club still needed to hang on for an 11-8 win in the opener of a three-game series in Cincinnati, a game in which ace Jake Arrieta struggled.
But a win is a win, especially after a disappointing series in Miami in which they lost three of four. Despite losing six of their last eight, the Cubs still own a 9 1/2-game lead in the National League Central.
On Tuesday, the Cubs will try to win two in a row for the first time since June 18.
"We haven’t been playing the best baseball," Bryant said. "But tonight was a good game to win and we’ll try to build off that."
The Reds dominated the Cubs for several seasons during their rebuild. But the tide has turned the past two seasons. Chicago has won the last three series against the Reds and nine of the past 10.
The Cubs have won seven of eight against the Reds this season. Chicago won last season’s series 13-6, snapping a streak of five straight won by Cincinnati.
Jon Lester takes the mound for the Cubs on Tuesday, making his sixth career start against Cincinnati. He’s 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA in his career against the Reds.
Lester will be challenged, though, by manager Bryan Price’s club, which likes to run, especially center fielder Billy Hamilton, who had 19 stolen bases this season.
Lester has 13 quality starts, third best in baseball. He has allowed one earned run or fewer in 10 of his starts.
Left-hander Jon Lamb will make his 11th start of the season and second against the Cubs. He last faced Chicago last Oct. 1 last season, allowing five earned runs in 4 2/3 innings of a 5-3 loss.
Lamb was among a trio of left-handers acquired from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Johnny Cueto last July. He began the season on the disabled list after back surgery.
Cincinnati’s pitching staff is beginning to get healthy with the return of Lamb, right-hander Anthony DeSclafani, who worked eight shutout innings on Sunday, and promising bullpen arms Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen.
Veteran Homer Bailey made his first rehab start for Triple-A Louisville and is targeted for a late July return, barring setbacks.
The Cubs are looking to get healthy as well. Leadoff batter Dexter Fowler is on track to come off the disabled list when eligible July 5, according to Maddon.
Jorge Soler took practice on Monday at Great American Ball Park and the reports were positive. He’ll need a minor-league rehab appearance before returning, however.
Despite the Cubs being a bit banged up, Price is fully aware of Chicago’s success against his club heading into Tuesday.
"For a game where we had eight hits and six walks and eight runs, that’s usually enough to win," Price said after Monday’s game. "The Cubs had their hitting shoes on tonight. They’re real happy and comfortable against our staff right now."