The Chicago Cubs were eager to flip the calendar after dropping six of their final seven games in April.
After beginning May with a tight win, the Cubs have reason for optimism heading into the rubber match of a three-game series against the host Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.
Nico Hoerner went 3-for-3 with a walk and drove in the go-ahead run in the Cubs’ 3-2 victory Saturday. The versatile 23-year-old began the season at the Cubs’ alternate site but has quickly established himself as an everyday player.
Hoerner has 12 hits in 10 games this season after collecting 24 in 48 games last year.
“This guy needs to be in the lineup on a daily basis,” catcher Willson Contreras said. “He’s a high-energy guy. He takes good at-bats and he’s always looking for ways to win the game. That’s Nico Hoerner.”
Contreras sat out Saturday’s contest due to right-thigh tightness but could return as soon as Sunday for the Cubs, who finished April with an 11-15 record, their worst first month of the season since 2014 (9-17).
Cincinnati is 3-9 over its past 12 games and will turn to right-hander Tyler Mahle (1-1, 1.75 ERA) for the series finale. Mahle continued to impress with another strong outing last Monday, when he allowed one run over five innings in a no-decision against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The 26-year-old is seeking his first victory since April 3.
Ian Happ is hitless with seven strikeouts in 12 at-bats against Mahle, who is 3-2 with a 3.23 ERA in eight career starts against the Cubs.
The Cubs are countering with right-hander Trevor Williams (2-2, 4.44), who gave up two runs and struck out a season-high eight over five innings in last Tuesday’s 5-0 loss to Atlanta.
Joey Votto is 12-for-31 against Williams, who owns a 6-3 record and 3.50 ERA against the Reds, including 2-0 with a 3.71 ERA in four outings (three starts) at Great American Ball Park.
In the team’s 8-6 win on Friday, Votto became the third Reds player in franchise history to hit 300 homers, but he was hitless in three at-bats in Saturday’s loss.
Cincinnati went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position on Saturday. The club continues to exercise patience with shortstop Eugenio Suarez, who went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and is in a 4-for-61 slump.
“He’s searching, trying. It’s normal,” Reds manager David Bell said. “All of our hitters, major-league hitters, really great hitters like Geno go through this. He’s showing signs; he’ll have a game here and a game there where he’s seeing it better, and it’s just a matter of time.”
The Reds could receive a boost Sunday from outfielder Jesse Winker, who missed Saturday’s contest with tightness in his back but said he expects to return for the series finale.
The rivalry between the teams flared in the eighth inning Saturday after Anthony Rizzo struck out against Reds reliever Amir Garrett, who pounded his chest and drew an immediate reaction from the Cubs. Both benches cleared briefly, but no players were ejected.
–Field Level Media
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