Reds swept by Cubs, losing streak hits 6

Javier Baez smacked a first-inning grand slam and Kris Bryant launched a 450-foot solo shot to back Jon Lester and power the Cubs to a 9-5 victory on Thursday over the Reds at Wrigley Field, and post Chicago’s first series sweep of the season.

Baez connected in a five-run first inning and added an RBI single in the fifth to hand the Reds their sixth straight loss, the team’s longest skid since dropping 11 in a row in May 2016. Last year, the Cubs were on a roll, with a 29-11 record after 40 games, but it’s been a little tougher for the defending World Series champs this season. With Thursday’s win, they’re 21-19.

“We pitched really well,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the series. “Our starting pitching was pretty good, and for me, it’s always the biggest part. The starting pitching drives the engine. When that’s happening, you have a chance to hit better.”

Lester remained unbeaten at Wrigley Field in his past 18 home starts, improving to 13-0 in that stretch. The lefty scattered six hits over six-plus innings, striking out five and helped himself by hitting a sacrifice fly. The Cubs have won 16 of those 18 starts.

“We’re trending in the right direction, which is good,” Lester said. “This was a good series and hopefully we can keep it going.”

Bryant topped Baez in terms of home run distance, launching the first pitch he saw in the fourth from fellow Las Vegas native Amir Garrett to straightaway center. The ball landed on top of a suite in center field.

Garrett was making his first big league start since May 6, and he served up six runs on five hits over four innings. In his last Minor League start last Friday, he struck out all six of the batters he faced. The lefty wasn’t as dominant on Thursday. Reds manager Bryan Price was asked if sending Garrett to Triple-A Louisville to limit his innings played a role in his ineffective outing.

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