Cubs

Cubs get back to normal, snap losing streak by beating up on lowly Reds

Cubs get back to normal, snap losing streak by beating up on lowly Reds

The seemingly surefire way for these Cubs to get out of a rut? A date with the Cincinnati Reds.

After dropping six of seven to the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins, the Cubs went to the Queen City and swept the Reds. Now, after getting swept in an ugly four-game set with the New York Mets, the Cubs returned to Wrigley Field on the Fourth of July and turned in another blowout win against their Ohio-based Central Division rivals, beating up on the Reds, 10-4.

The Cubs surely didn’t care who the skid-stopping victory came against, but the schedule was in their favor with the Reds — now 30-54, one of the worst teams in baseball — in town.

“It’s huge because we have a lot going for us and we have a lot to miss out on if we don’t minimize those stretches,” outfielder Jason Heyward said after the game. “It’s part of the game, it’s going to happen, you go play good teams that are playing well on the road and go through stretches when you have injuries and things. Everybody that makes it to that spot at the end of the year, they overcome that. That’s what we’ve got to do.”

Monday’s game didn’t prove the Cubs could suddenly beat the Mets after a weekend of beatdowns. It didn’t immediately erase concerns that popped up in those series defeats to the Cardinals and Marlins. But for one day things did seem to get back to normal for a team that had a white-hot start to the season.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

The Cubs tagged the Reds for three runs in each of the first two innings. Heyward delivered a two-run double in the first inning. Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras each homered in the second inning, Bryant’s blast a two-run shot that served as his National League leading 24th of the season. Two runs scored on a bases-loaded error in the fourth, and Addison Russell hit his own two-run homer in the sixth.

This was the offense that was pouring it on earlier in the season, before a rocky June. It was the offense that’s scorched the Reds all season. The Cubs have outscored the Reds, 97-36, and gone 10-1 in 11 head-to-head matchups.

Kyle Hendricks, with ample support from that offense, was again terrific. Hendricks’ ERA is down to 2.61, and his performance Monday stood out as aces like Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester come off rough outings in New York. Hendricks lasted just 5 1/3 innings Monday, but he allowed just a single unearned run.

“We had a few rough ones, but every team’s going to go through that. It’s a long, long season, and everything’s fine,” Hendricks said. “We’ve had a lot of guys banged up. Expecting a lot of new guys to come in and pick up some big jobs. It’s been a tough stretch, but we’ve still got to take it one game at a time.”

[RELATED: Hendricks pitching as good as any Cubs pitcher]

Detractors will say, “Hey, it was only the Reds. Big deal.” And as mentioned, the Cubs’ problems don’t get thrown out the window with one win against a last-place team. But aside from temporary worry following an outfield collision between Bryant and Albert Almora Jr. — Maddon said Bryant should be fine come Tuesday — there wasn’t much of anything that went wrong in this one.

Or, as Maddon put it:

“Hey, it’s better than not beating the Reds.”

The good news is that the woeful weekend in Queens is now firmly in the rearview mirror, with Monday’s win returning the Cubs to a sense of normalcy. Despite the preseason expectations, the Cubs weren’t going to go 162-0. But the Cubs are hoping that June was just an aberration.

“It’s always good to keep (losing streaks) at a minimum,” Maddon said. “You’re going to have those moments. To think you’re not going to is really skewed kind of thinking. It’s going to happen, and it did. So you move on, you play today’s game, you have a nice dinner, you come back and do it again tomorrow.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 10th, 11th homers in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 10th, 11th homers in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa is heating up, but even a red-hot Sosa doesn't automatically equal wins for the Cubs.

Slammin' Sammy notched his first multi-homer game in 1998 in a 9-5 loss to Kevin Millwood and the Atlanta Braves. Sosa drove in 4 of the Cubs' 5 runs on a solo shot in the 4th inning and a three-run shot in the 8th. 

Sosa tallied 830 feet of homers in the game, with his first blast going 410 feet and the second shot measured at 420 feet.

The big game bumped Sosa's overall season slash line to .337/.411/.551 (.962 OPS) with 11 homers and 35 RBI.

Fun fact: Mickey Morandini hit second for the Cubs in this game and went 4-for-4, but somehow only scored one run despite hitting just in front of Sosa all game. That's because Morandini was caught stealing to end the 3rd inning, leaving Sosa to lead off the 4th inning with a solo blast.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: If Cubs somehow miss the playoffs will Joe Maddon's seat start heating up?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: If Cubs somehow miss the playoffs will Joe Maddon's seat start heating up?

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Nick Friedell (ESPN.com) and Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times) join David Kaplan on the panel.

The guys discuss Welington Castillo’s 80-game PED suspension, the Cubs struggles and if Joe Maddon could be on the hot seat if the Cubs somehow miss the playoffs in 2018.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: