Major League Baseball

Cubs seek elusive series win vs. Reds

mlb3CUBS (45-38) AT REDS (37-43)
1:10 p.m. ET; FS-O, MLBN, NBCSCH, MLB.TV

The Chicago Cubs hope the third time is the charm on Sunday afternoon when they play the rubber match of their three-game series against the host Cincinnati Reds.

The Cubs dropped a 4-2 decision in the series finale at Great American Ball Park on May 16 as well as a 10-2 setback at Wrigley Field on May 26.

Chicago evened its current series in Cincinnati on Saturday after Jason Heyward homered for the second time in as many days and Javier Baez belted his fifth career grand slam in a 6-0 victory.

The National League Central-leading Cubs own a 14-14 mark this month entering the final day of June. The team must win on Sunday in order to avert its first losing month since May 2017.

“A lot of moving parts,” Chicago manager Joe Maddon said. “Of course you’d like to be in better position, but I can’t really lament what’s gone on at this point. Overall, we’ve hung in there pretty well.”

While Heyward and Baez provided the fireworks with their bats on Saturday, Reds slugger Yasiel Puig set off some more with his response to being hit by a pitch from Pedro Strop in the eighth inning. Puig slammed his batting helmet to the ground and gestured toward the reliever as he walked toward the mound, prompting the benches and bullpens to clear before order was restored.

“At the end of the day, nothing happened,” the 28-year-old Puig said. “Nobody got hurt. What’s important (on Sunday) is to go out and win the game and win the series. That’s more important than fighting with the other team.”

Strop was far from impressed with Puig’s antics on the field, and the reliever’s following response could raise tensions in the series finale.

“I don’t know what to say about it,” Strop said. “It’s not a secret he’s stupid. I have nothing against him, but he’s stupid.”

Joey Votto continued to haunt the Cubs, following up his 24th career four-hit performance against them in the opener with two more hits on Saturday.

The 35-year-old Votto is 10-for-18 with two homers, five RBIs and four runs scored in his last five games overall and 17-for-34 with nine runs scored in the season series versus Chicago.

Puig and Votto will aim to send Cincinnati to just its second victory in seven outings on Sunday when they face Chicago left-hander Jon Lester (7-5, 3.83 ERA), who has four wins in his last five starts.

Lester allowed two runs (zero earned) on five hits and struck out seven over six innings in an 8-3 victory over Atlanta on Monday.

The 35-year-old sports a 7-1 record and 3.88 ERA in 16 starts against the Reds, including a 3-1 mark with a 3.38 ERA in Cincinnati. Lester has flustered Scooter Gennett (2-for-13, five strikeouts), although he has struggled against Jose Peraza (12-for-29).

Reds right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (4-4, 4.70 ERA) will take the mound on Sunday after seeing his three-start unbeaten streak come to a halt in his last outing.

DeSclafani, who surrendered one run in each of his previous three starts, allowed six runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings of a 7-5 setback at Milwaukee last Sunday.

The 29-year-old, who owns a 3-3 record with a 4.24 ERA in 10 career starts versus Chicago, received a no-decision against the Cubs on May 24 despite yielding three homers in 3 2/3 innings. Kris Bryant, who belted one of them, is 6-for-17 versus the hurler.

–Field Level Media

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