Finnegan loses no-hit bid in 7th; Russell, Cubs top Reds 5-3
Chicago Cubs' Addison Russell reacts as he watches after hitting a three-run home run during the eighth inning of an opening baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds Monday, April 11, 2016, in Chicago. The Cubs won 5-3. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
CHICAGO (AP) Addison Russell circled the bases while the crowd roared, happy to have Brandon Finnegan's flirtation with a no-hitter made irrelevant.
Russell tried to soak it all in. With his heart pounding, it wasn't easy.
''Once I stepped on the plate, it was an awesome feeling,'' he said.
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Russell hit a three-run drive in the eighth inning and the Chicago Cubs beat Cincinnati in their home opener, roughing up the Reds bullpen after Finnegan took a no-hitter into the seventh inning on Monday night.
David Ross broke up the no-hit bid with a two-out single that started a two-run rally, with Jason Heyward cutting the Cubs' deficit to 3-2 with a bases-loaded single off Tony Cingrani.
In the eighth, Cingrani (0-1) walked Ben Zobrist with one out and hit Jorge Soler. Russell then drove Jumbo Diaz's first pitch out to left-center, whipping the packed crowd into a frenzy and sending the Cubs to their sixth victory in seven games, matching their best start since 1998.
Jon Lester pitched six innings, allowing three runs and five hits. Adam Warren (1-0) worked a scoreless eighth for his first win as a Cub, and Hector Rondon struck out the side in the ninth for his second save in as many chances.
''Nobody got down,'' Lester said. ''We had some good, quality ABs throughout the night that just didn't turn into hits. They made a couple good plays on us.''
Finnegan allowed two runs and one hit over 6 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking five. He also drove in a run with a single.
Would he have been allowed to complete a no-hitter? Manager Bryan Price said no.
''He had a chance to throw a seven-inning no-hitter, but once his pitch count got up over 105 that was gonna be it for the night,'' Price said. ''His night would have been over after the 7th.''
Finnegan, who threw 111 pitches, was the main piece acquired when Cincinnati traded ace Johnny Cueto to Kansas City last season. He tossed six strong innings with nine strikeouts in a 3-2 win over Philadelphia in his first start this season.
Billy Hamilton homered leading off the third, but the Reds lost after winning five of their first six.
The Cubs came home to a sparkling new clubhouse and warm embrace from fans who believe this team just might end a championship drought dating to 1908. They gave just about everyone rousing ovations during the pregame introductions and saved their loudest cheers for injured Kyle Schwarber at the end.
They roared and chanted his name as he hobbled out with a crutch under his right arm after the Cubs showed a few highlights of him. Schwarber's second MLB season ended almost as soon as it began when he tore ligaments in his left knee and severely sprained an ankle in an outfield collision with Dexter Fowler at Arizona last week.
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said there was ''nothing new'' to report about his contract situation. He said he and chairman Tom Ricketts ''haven't talked a lot'' about it.
''But the few talks we've had have been very amicable, productive and moving in the right direction,'' Epstein said. ''When things stabilize, we get through this injury situation and we get into the rhythm of the season, I'm sure we'll pick up talks and get something done. It's not really a concern.''
Epstein, the architect of the Cubs' turnaround, is in the final season of a five-year deal he signed when he left Boston.
Reds: SS Zack Cozart left the game because of tightness in his right quad. He was replaced by Ivan DeJesus Jr. to start the bottom of the fourth. … RHP Anthony DeSclafani (strained left oblique) played catch Monday and is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Wednesday. Price said if everything goes well, the Reds will likely have him pitch in a rehab game.
Cubs: INF Javier Baez (bruised left thumb) started a rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa on Monday. Manager Joe Maddon said he will likely get 20 to 25 at-bats before being activated from the disabled list.
Reds: RHP Alfredo Simon (0-0, 1.80) looks to build on a solid start against Pittsburgh and maintain his mastery of the Cubs on Wednesday. He is 4-0 with a 1.66 ERA in 15 career games – five starts – against Chicago.
Cubs: RHP John Lackey (1-0, 9.00) makes his first start at Wrigley Field on Wednesday since signing with the Cubs in the offseason.