CINCINNATI — Anthony Rizzo saw the ball ricochet across the outfield and kicked his legs into high gear, deciding he was going to try to touch `em all. His sides were aching by the time he slid safely into home plate.
Rizzo legged out his first inside-the-park homer on Wednesday - a fitting final touch to a series full of unusual moments - and the Chicago Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds 9-2 for a three-game sweep that put them back on solid footing after a rough stretch.
"They were on top of it, man, after a long one last night," Chicago starter Kyle Hendricks said.
The Cubs went 1-6 last week, hurt by an injury-depleted lineup and a balky bullpen. With thousands of Cubs fans in the stands at Great American Ball Park for each game, they pulled off an invigorating sweep.
The NL Central leaders won the opener 11-8 as Kris Bryant became the first major leaguer with three homers and two doubles in a game. They won 7-2 in 15 innings Tuesday night in a game that featured Javier Baez's grand slam and three relievers playing left field alternately.
Manager Joe Maddon went with a lot of his young backups after the long night. They piled up a dozen hits and made impressive plays all over the field.
"A bunch of babies played in that game today," Maddon said. "They were inexperienced, they were young, and they came out and played hard and played well."
There was more wackiness, too.
Rizzo drove in three runs in the first inning off left-hander Cody Reed (0-2) with the Cubs' first inside-the-park homer since 2011, when Tony Campana circled the bases against Cincinnati. Left fielder Adam Duvall cut in front of center fielder Billy Hamilton but couldn't get to the ball, which deflected off Hamilton's cheek.
Rizzo couldn't remember the last time he circled the bases that way.
"Maybe Little League?" he said. "Nothing like that. I'll take it."
Hamilton left the game to get tested for a concussion. He missed a week earlier this month after suffering a concussion when he slid into third base and got hit in the head.
"We both called for it at the same time," Duvall said. "I thought we were going to collide. I didn't take my eye off the ball, but I might've flinched a little bit. It hit him pretty good. It ended up rolling pretty far."
Hendricks (6-6) gave up Duvall's 22nd homer and went 6 2/3 innings, throwing 117 pitches to rest a bullpen worn out from pitching and playing the outfield. He also drove in a run with a squeeze bunt.
Hendricks didn't get to play the outfield, though - not this time, anyway.
"The way things are going, you never know," he said.
Addison Russell and Albert Almora Jr. had solo shots for the Cubs, who hit 10 homers during the series. Baez had three more hits on Wednesday. Rizzo's homer gave him a 10-game hitting streak during which he's gone 17 for 36.
The Cubs have the major leagues' best record at 51-26. They're 9-1 against the Reds this season and have won 12 of their last 13 against their NL Central rival.
The Cubs' 27 runs in the series matched their second-highest total of the season for a three-game stretch.
They also turned in more good defensive plays. Right fielder Ben Zobrist threw out Joey Votto at the plate as he tried to score from second on Jay Bruce's single in the third.
Research into Baez's 15th-inning slam found that it was the latest by inning in Cubs history. Also, it was only the third in baseball history to happen in the 15th inning or later. New York's Tino Martinez hit one in the 15th in 1996, and Boston's Clyde Vollmer hit one in the 16th inning in 1951, according to STATS information provided by the team. The Cubs hadn't scored five runs so late in a game since 1927.
Cubs: Maddon gave LHP Travis Wood the day off after he played left field and pitched in relief Tuesday night.
Reds: 2B Brandon Phillips was in the lineup despite getting hit in the ribs and taking a foul off his left ankle Tuesday night. He had a single in four at-bats.
Cubs: RHP John Lackey (7-4, 3.29 ERA) opens a four-game series at New York against the Mets. He's coming off his worst outing of the season, when he allowed seven runs in 4 1/3 innings of a loss at Miami last Saturday.
Reds: LHP Brandon Finnegan (3-6, 3.83) opens a four-game series at Washington. He has lost his last two starts, giving up seven earned runs in 11 2/3 innings. The Reds don't play at home again until July 15.