Cubs’ Magic Number To Clinch NL Home Field At 3 After Win Against Reds

CHICAGO (AP) — Jon Lester overcame an injury scare to throw seven strong innings, Anthony Rizzo drove in three runs and the Chicago Cubs moved closer to securing the NL’s best record with a 6-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night.

Lester (18-4) extended his scoreless streak to 21 innings before Jose Peraza’s RBI triple in the fifth. He allowed six hits, struck out five, walked none and added an RBI double. Lester stayed in after Joey Votto’s comebacker in the sixth left him with a welt on the wrist of his glove hand.

Rizzo had a two-run single in a four-run fourth and a run-scoring single in the sixth to give him 104 RBIs. The Cubs’ 96th win reduced their magic number to three over Washington for clinching home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

The Cubs, who wrapped up the NL Central last week, are trying to find the right balance of staying sharp while getting rest and avoiding injury before the postseason. That’s why the crowd gasped and the trainer and manager Joe Maddon quickly ran out of the dugout after Lester was struck by Votto’s hard-hit ball.

Television replays showed the welt, but the lefty stayed in and retired six of his final seven batters before leaving after 97 pitches. Lester won his ninth straight decision and dropped his ERA to 2.36, helping his Cy Young Award candidacy.

After David Ross singled with two outs in the second, Lester lined a fastball off Josh Smith (3-2) into the gap in right-center. The 39-year-old Ross, who has said he’s retiring at the end of the season, lumbered home from first and belly-flopped into home without a throw to put the Cubs ahead to stay.

Smith, making a spot start in a bullpen game for the Reds, left after allowing three hits over three innings.

The Cubs scored four two-out runs in the fourth off Wandy Peralta, who walked Lester before Dexter Fowler’s RBI single. Kris Bryant followed with a bloop RBI double.

Bryant added a diving catch in a rare start in left field as the Cubs beat the last-place Reds for the 12th time in 15 tries.

With Washington losing 1-0 at Miami, the Cubs opened an eight-game lead over the Nationals with 11 left.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Reds: RHP Homer Bailey (biceps) felt well enough that his bullpen session was moved up a day. Manager Bryan Price was pleased and said it’s possible Bailey will get a start or two before the season ends. “There hasn’t been any issue regarding his surgically repaired elbow,” Price said.

Cubs: RHP Pedro Strop (knee, groin) threw a simulated game without issues and is set to come off the disabled list and pitch Friday, plugging the last postseason bullpen hole. “We’re expecting to have the time where I can get at least five or six innings in the regular season before playoffs,” Strop said.

UP NEXT

Cubs RHP John Lackey (9-8, 3.42 ERA), contending with Jason Hammel for the final postseason rotation spot, starts the series finale Wednesday night against RHP Robert Stephenson (2-1, 4.97).

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.

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