CHICAGO (AP) — Dexter Fowler hit a tiebreaking single with two outs in the seventh inning, and the Chicago Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds, 5-2, on Monday night.
Fowler’s line drive into center field capped a three-run rally for the Cubs after they were shut down by Tim Adleman most of the night. It also made a winner of Jason Hammel (15-9), who pitched seven solid innings.
Jason Heyward added a two-run homer in the eighth as the Cubs moved seven games ahead of Washington for the best record in the National League, lowering their magic number for clinching home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs to five. That’s the only major goal still out there during the regular season for major league-leading Chicago after it secured the NL Central title last week.
Brandon Phillips homered for last-place Cincinnati, which has lost five of six. Joey Votto went 2 for 3 with an RBI single and a walk, increasing his batting average since the All-Star break to .416.
The Reds allowed three more homers to run their season total to 242, breaking the major league record of 241 belonging to the 1996 Detroit Tigers.
The Cubs (95-55) were coming off a lackluster series against the Brewers, dropping three of four while celebrating their division title, and manager Joe Maddon met with his hitters before facing the Reds to talk to them about making the most of the final part of the season.
“It’s unusual being in this position like we are right now,” Maddon said after the meeting. “So you’ve got two weeks of baseball, major league baseball, left in September, so let’s work on some stuff. Let’s work on things that we need to work on individually or as a group.”
There was no sign of any carry-over from the meeting before Addison Russell led off the seventh with a drive to left for his 21st homer. Willson Contreras crushed another homer with one out, tying it at 2 and chasing Adleman from the longest start of his rookie year.
Chris Coghlan greeted Blake Wood (6-4) with a double to right. After pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella popped out, Fowler made it 3-2 with his only hit of the game.
Hammel, trying to win a spot in Chicago’s postseason rotation, allowed four hits and walked one during his best outing in a month. The right-hander went 1-4 with an 8.61 ERA in his previous five starts.
Hector Rondon worked the eighth before Aroldis Chapman finished for his 15th save with the Cubs and 35th on the year. It was Chapman’s first career appearance against Cincinnati, which traded the hard-throwing closer to the New York Yankees last December.
PACKING THEM IN
The paid attendance of 39,251 ran the Cubs’ season total to 3,028,965 with five home games left in the regular season. It’s the franchise’s first time drawing more than 3 million since 2011, and the ninth time at Wrigley Field overall.
GETTING A CHANCE
Reds right-hander Josh Smith will make his first start of the season Tuesday. Manager Bryan Price said the game would have a “bullpen flavor” to it.
The Reds need a starter after playing a doubleheader Saturday.
“It’s a good opportunity,” said Smith, who threw 62 pitches Saturday. “I enjoy starting. It’s what I was used to until this year.”
Reds: RHP Homer Bailey (biceps) is scheduled for another bullpen session Wednesday. “It’s still possible that he’ll make a start or two before the year is out,” Price said. … A day after saying CF Billy Hamilton (oblique) was “improbable” to return this season, Price put SS Zack Cozart (knee) in the same category. “We’re certainly not going to rush him through the rehab process,” Price said.
Cubs: OF Jorge Soler (tightness on his right side) could be available to pinch hit on Tuesday, according to Maddon. … Right-handed reliever Pedro Strop, who is coming back from knee and groin injuries, is on track to pitch in a simulated game soon.
Smith (3-1, 4.97 ERA) will be opposed by Cubs LHP Jon Lester (17-4, 2.40), who is 8-0 with a 1.47 ERA in his last 11 starts.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.