CINCINNATI — Manager David Ross has expressed faith in the depth of his lineup as well as his rotation since the start of summer camp.
And although Anthony Rizzo has seized attention with his slugging and Kyle Hendricks and Tyler Chatwood gained instant mound success, the contributions provided by the less heralded players stood out Tuesday as the Cubs earned an 8-5 win over the Cincinnati Reds to stretch their winning streak to three games.
Jason Heyward, David Bote, Jason Kipnis and Nico Hoerner, the Nos. 6-9 batters, went a combined 6-for-13 with four RBIs to provide ample support for No. 5 starter Alec Mills, who pitched six efficient innings.
Javier Baez hit his first two home runs of the season in his final two at-bats, but it was the bottom of the order that instantly picked up the slack for Kris Bryant, who is nursing a sore left elbow, and Willson Contreras, who was given the night off after catching the two previous games under hot conditions.
The Cubs (4-1) have scored at least eight runs during their win streak.
Mills, who slid into the fifth spot after left-hander Jose Quintana cut his left thumb in a dishwashing accident one month ago, needed only 77 pitches to throw six innings and limited the outs needed by a taxed bullpen.
Hendricks, Chatwood, Jon Lester and Mills have limited opponents to three earned runs in 26 innings.
Mills relied on inducing soft contact, and his only blemish was a two-run, game-tying home run to Nicholas Castellanos in the fourth.
Mills proceeded to retire seven of the final eight batters he faced and helped his cause by sprinting to first to catch Rizzo’s throw for the final out of the sixth.
That was the ninth ground ball out induced by Mills, who also received a huge lift from Baez.
Baez’s head-first slide at home in the fifth barely beat the throw from center fielder Shogo Akiyama, snapping a 2-2 tie.
Baez ranged to his left to make a sliding stop and recovered with a strong throw to retire Curt Casali to end the bottom of the inning.
Baez capped an all-around performance with his homers in the seventh and ninth.
The homers by Baez and Bote (in the eighth) provided timely insurance for the bullpen, which allowed seven runs and eight walks in the final four innings of Monday’s 8-7 win.
Casey Sadler pitched a scoreless seventh, and Kyle Ryan induced Joey Votto to ground into a double play that prevented Eugenio Suarez from representing the tying run.
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