CINCINNATI (AP) — Anthony Rizzo had a pair of hits as part of a 30th birthday celebration, Nicholas Castellanos added to his Chicago surge with a pair of homers and the Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds 12-5 on Thursday night for their biggest NL Central lead of the season.
The Cubs’ sixth win in seven games gave them a 3 1/2-game margin over the idle Brewers. The Reds wasted a big game by rookie Aristides Aquino — Yasiel Puig’s replacement — and fell to eight games out, one shy of their biggest deficit.
Reds manager David Bell returned from a six-game suspension for going after Pirates manager Clint Hurdle during a benches-clearing brawl last week at Great American Ball Park. Reliever Jared Hughes began a three-game suspension Thursday, imposed for purposely hitting Starling Marte with a pitch. Eight Reds and Pirates were suspended in all, including Hurdle.
Rizzo was greeted in the visiting clubhouse by a banner featuring pictures of him as a youth. A few Cubs fans sang “Happy Birthday” before his first at-bat, and he answered with an RBI double off left-hander Alex Wood.
Castellanos had a pair of solo homers among his three hits, the latter breaking a 5-5 tie off Kevin Gausman (3-8) in the fourth inning. He’s hit safely in all eight games since the Cubs got him from Detroit.
Ian Happ drove in four runs with a single and a two-run homer, his second straight games with four RBIs.
Left-hander Cole Hamels returned to the mound where he strained his left oblique on June 28. In his second start off the injury list, Hamels let an early four-run lead slip away as Aquino had an RBI double and two-run homer.
Aquino’s homer was measured at 118.3 mph, tying the Yankees’ Gary Sanchez and Mets’ Pete Alonso for the hardest-hit homers this season. The International League All-Star was called up to play right field after Puig was traded to Cleveland and has gone 9 for 15 with three homers in his last five games.
Tyler Chatwood (5-1) fanned six in three innings as the Cubs pulled away.
The Cubs signed catcher Jonathan Lucroy on Thursday to help them get through the loss of All-Star Willson Contreras, sidelined by a strained hamstring. Lucroy had three hits and was called for catcher’s interference twice.
Cubs: Catcher Taylor Davis was optioned to Triple-A Iowa to open a roster spot for Lucroy.
Reds: Catcher Curt Casali will start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Louisville on Friday. He’s been on the injured list since July 18 with a sprained right knee.
Cubs: Yu Darvish (4-5) is 3-0 in six career starts against the Reds with a 2.92 ERA.
Reds: Trevor Bauer (9-8) makes his first start for the Reds at Great American Ball Park. Cincinnati got him from Cleveland in the three-team deal that included Puig. Bauer lasted only 4 2/3 innings of a 5-4 loss at Atlanta on Saturday.
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