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Once pitcher Mike Lorenzen homered Lane Taylor Jersey , the Cincinnati Reds got rolling again.
Lorenzen connected for a pinch-hit shot to begin Cincinnati’s comeback, Jesse Winker added a pinch-hit, three-run homer in a big seventh, and the Reds beat the Chicago Cubs 8-6 Sunday for their seventh straight win.
Lorenzen’s homer was the third of his career and second in two games by a Reds pitcher. Anthony DeSclafani hit a grand slam on Saturday, the first by a Reds pitcher since 1959.
”In a game like today we feel like we’re not meant to lose,” Lorenzen said.
The last-place Reds completed a four-game sweep of the Cubs for the first time since 1983 at Riverfront Stadium. Their winning streak is their longest since a 10-game surge in July 2012.
”We know what we can do,” Winker said. ”It is cool coming to the field and expecting to win. We’re in June right now. We are taking care of June. To win a game, it takes a group effort. There’s plenty of season left. We’re going to keep grinding good at bats. It’s been a lot of fun.”
After Chicago scored five times in the fifth, Lorenzen homered in the bottom half.
The Reds trailed 6-1 going into the seventh. Winker went opposite field on Pedro Strop’s first pitch after relieving Mike Montgomery to cut Chicago’s lead to 6-5.
Joey Votto delivered the go-ahead double as the next four batters reached against Strop (3-1), who retired just two of the nine batters he faced in his first appearance since Tuesday.
”Strop had plenty of rest – maybe too much,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. ”I felt like he was the right guy. It just didn’t work. They got two pinch-hit homers, one by a pitcher. They had some great at-bats.”
Said Strop: ”It’s always good to be fresh.”
”I’m not blaming that. I didn’t feel like I had command of my fastball. I think that was the key. I was getting behind hitters, and I was a little bit too fine when I got ahead,” he said.
Jose Peraza drove in two runs and Tucker Barnhart had the game-tying RBI as the Reds set a season high for runs.
”We’ve never quit,” manager Jim Riggleman said. ”We’ve always battled. It’s Major League Baseball. You better keep playing for nine innings. We had that stretch where we were down three or four runs in the early innings. We were competitive and came back in some of them. As of late, we haven’t had to do that. The starters have done a good job.”
Seven runs are the most allowed in one inning this season by the Cubs, who have lost six of their last eight.
”You don’t change things,” Maddon said. ”You still eat. You still sleep. You still pet your puppy.”
The Reds overcame a fifth-inning two-run homer by slumping Anthony Rizzo Andre Holmes Jersey , who went 1-for-14 in the series, and a solo shot by Albert Almora Jr. off Jackson Stephens (1-0), which gave Chicago a 6-1 lead in the seventh.
Amir Garrett had three strikeouts in the eighth before Raisel Iglesias picked up his 13th save.
Montgomery started in place of Tyler Chatwood, who left for Chicago early Sunday morning when his wife went into labor. The left-hander kept the Reds scoreless until Lorenzen’s homer with two outs in the fifth inning.
Reds 3B Eugenio Suarez went 0 for 3 before leaving in a double switch, snapping his hitting streak at a career-high 13 games, the longest active streak in the major leagues.
Cubs RHP Yu Darvish is expected to throw 75 pitches or four to five innings of his first rehab start on Monday with Single-A South Bend. Darvish has been out since May 20 with right triceps tendinitis.
The Reds activated OF Scott Schebler from the bereavement list before Sunday’s after missing three games, the minimum amount of time he could spend on the list. OF Phillip Ervin was optioned to Triple-A Louisville. Schebler went 1 for 3 with two walks.
WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR
Sunday’s game was the Cubs’ last in Cincinnati this season. The remaining 10 games between the two teams will be played in Chicago.
Cubs: 3B Kris Bryant missed his second straight start and is day-to-day with a sore left shoulder.
Reds: RHP Homer Bailey, out since June 2 with right knee inflammation, threw 86 pitches in six innings of a rehab start with Triple-A Louisville on Saturday.
Cubs: RHP Duane Underwood will be recalled from Triple-A Iowa to make his major league debut as Chicago tries to keep its starters on regular rest.
Reds: RHP Tyler Mahle (6-6) is 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA in four June starts.
Saints coach Sean Payton takes a small measure of comfort in New Orleans’ regular-season sweep of Carolina.
It means the Saints (11-5) play the Panthers (11-5) in the Superdome, where New Orleans hasn’t lost a playoff game since 1992 and is 4-0 in the postseason under Payton.
Beyond that, however, the Saints coach asserts that teams evolve over the course of a season as they develop chemistry and adjust to roster or positional changes brought on by injuries.
And on Sunday, there will be a different psychology to performing in the postseason, when losing brings the season to a sudden end.
”Each game’s different,” said Payton, whose team took its first NFC South crown since 2011 by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker over Carolina.
”From the midpoint of the season, when (Carolina) got on a roll, you can see the confidence grow with that team. And you’re also talking about a team that (two years ago) was in the Super Bowl Logan Thomas Jersey ,” Payton said. ”The prior two games don’t matter.”
Payton pointed out that the Panthers not only defeated two of the top teams in the NFL this season – New England and Minnesota – but beat the Patriots on the road.
Carolina coach Ron Rivera doesn’t downplay the significance of those victories.
”I don’t think that is overplayed. I think that is a reality. But at the same time, we are playing against a team that has beat us twice,” Rivera said. ”We have to figure out what went well and improve on that and what went wrong and correct that.”
When the Saints pounded the Panthers by 21 in Carolina in Week 3, it began an eight-game winning streak that vaulted New Orleans atop of the division for good.
When New Orleans topped Carolina by 10 in the dome in Week 13, it ended a Panthers four-game winning streak and was one of only two losses in Carolina’s past nine games.
Their third meeting – also the first playoff clash between them – is loaded with story lines. Here are some of the main ones:
CAM ON THE RUN: The Panthers have been better when quarterback Cam Newton runs the ball. But Newton, Carolina’s leading rusher this season, didn’t run much in two losses to New Orleans, gaining 67 yards on nine carries.
That could change with the season on the line. Newton has averaged 12.5 carries for 59.7 yards per game in Carolina’s past four games.
”That’s my edge,” Newton said. ”I’m comfortable running the football. I feel like I help the team when I’m running the football.”
While Saints All-Pro defensive end Cam Jordan has done well containing the 6-foot-5, 245-pound, fleet-footed Newton in previous meetings, he said he doesn’t exactly enjoy the prospect of having to do so again.
”Who likes facing Cam Newton? I mean, come on,” Jordan said. ”He’s able to escape, spins. He reverse-spins. He pivot-spins. He gets out of the pocket as well as he climbs through the pocket and he’s got some weight to him. I mean, he’s not a frail guy.”
FAMILIAL INSPIRATION: Saints quarterback Drew Brees, whose 72 percent completion rate this season was an NFL record, enters his first playoff game in four years just days after traveling to Texas for the funeral of his 92-year-old grandfather Nathan Peterman Jersey , Ray Akins, a World War II veteran and long-time high school football coach.
Brees said his two days in Texas was ”obviously very sad” at times, but stressed that he ”really came back energized.”
”Being with my family, and with friends, and with guys that played for my grandfather, and just listening to their stories again, just reemphasizing to me what a great man he was, and what a wise man he was, and just a true American hero,” Brees said.
”He was my hero. I learned so much from him and it just reemphasizes all the important things in life, and the values and morals that I want to live by not only in the way I conduct myself as a family man and in the community, but also as a member of this team.”
DEFENDING THE RUN: The Panthers finished third in the league against the run, but struggled to stop the Saints.
The Pro Bowl running back tandem of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara helped the Saints rush for 149 and 148 yards in two games against Carolina, the two highest rushing totals allowed by Carolina this season.
”We take pride in being good at stopping the run,” Panthers outside linebacker Thomas Davis said. ”If you look at those two games, we flat out didn’t get it done. … It’s uncharacteristic of this defense. This weekend should be a much better showing.”
GETTING HEALTHIER: The Panthers expect to get two key players back on offense – running back Jonathan Stewart and guard Trai Turner.
Stewart sat out last week’s 22-10 loss to Atlanta with back soreness. Turner has missed three games with a concussion.
New Orleans could get starting left tackle Terron Armstead back from a thigh injury that kept him out of last week’s 31-24 loss at Tampa Bay. He practiced on a limited basis this week and was listed as questionable.
Meanwhile, Panthers star tight end Greg Olsen and Saints Pro Bowl cornerback Marshon Lattimore are slated to play after missing each of the previous two meetings.