CINCINNATI - Two homers, a deft dive to score another run, and a couple smooth-as-ever defensive plays. Vintage Javier Báez, in time to keep the Cubs’ surge going.
The sensational shortstop led the way offensively Tuesday night and Alec Mills went six solid innings for an 8-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds that fit Chicago’s early pattern.
Chicago has won four of its first five games, scoring first in each one. Jason Kipnis’ triple — Shogo Akiyama lost it in the sun — sparked the offense. Báez took it from there, emerging from a slow start that included only a pair of singles in the first four games.
“When Javy plays well, it’s infectious for the team,” manager David Ross said. “Javy makes so many things happen.”
Mills (1-0) added to Chicago’s stretch of impressive starts. Mills, who made four spot starts last season, held the Reds to two hits in six innings. Chicago’s starters have a 1.80 ERA and a .131 opponent batting average this season.
Báez had a hand in that too, making a couple of hit-stealing plays behind Mills.
“Oh my goodness,” Mills said. “You turn around and seeing that is comforting, seeing him there. He makes everything look easy.”
The Reds got two-run homers by Nick Castellanos — his first since signing a $64 million deal — and Freddy Galvis but fell to 1-4, tied for the worst start in the majors.
Báez had a solo shot and a two-run homer as the Cubs pulled away, loudly cheering each hit and celebrating each run in the dugout.
“That’s been a big thing here in the clubhouse,” Báez said. “We’re having more fun than anything. (Anthony) Rizzo has been crazy trying to make us be together and it’s working.”
Kipnis tripled in the third off Tyler Mahle — Akiyama lost sight of the ball in center field — and scored on Nico Hoerner’s single. Kipnis added an RBI single an inning later.
Akiyama was in center field for Nick Senzel, who missed his third game because of sickness. The Reds had no update on his condition Tuesday. Senzel remains on the active roster.
Matt Davidson went on the injured list Saturday after testing for the coronavirus. Senzel and Mike Moustakas felt sick a day later, and the Reds put Moustakas on the injured list.
Castellanos said after the game that Senzel and Moustakas had negative COVID-19 tests and could return for the final game of the series.
“That’s obviously been a big letdown because both of them are big parts of our lineup,” Castellanos said.
Manager David Bell is looking forward to getting his everyday lineup back soon.
“They’re a big part of our team,” Bell said. “Each day we believe we’re running a team out there that’s competitive and that we believe in to win the game. We’re going to be that much stronger when they come back.”
Castellanos tied it 2-2 with his first homer, but Báez put the Cubs back ahead in the fifth with a double off Cody Reed (0-1) followed by a great dive. He scored from second on Kyle Schwarber’s single to left, besting Aristides Aquino’s perfect throw by stretching his left hand over the corner of the plate to avoid the tag, putting Chicago ahead to stay.
The Cubs’ streak of scoring first in all five games is their longest to open a season since they did it in the first nine games of the 1945 season.
Reds third baseman Eugenio Suárez extended his season-opening slump to 0 for 16 with a strikeout in the sixth and snapped his bat over his right thigh on his way back to the dugout. He doubled his next time up.
Rizzo singled in his final at-bat. He’s reached base safely in each of his last 11 games at Great American Ball Park.
Cubs: Kris Bryant got a day out of the starting lineup because of a sore left elbow. Ross said the injury isn’t serious.
Reds: Cather Tucker Barnhart was reinstated from the paternity list. Right-hander Robert Stephenson went on the 10-day injured list with a strained back.
Cubs: Kyle Hendricks (1-0) threw a three-hit shutout against the Brewers, becoming the first Cub since 1974 with a shutout in a season opener. He’s 6-3 in 17 career starts against the Reds with a 3.84 ERA.
Reds: Sonny Gray (1-0) tries to extend his major league record streak of 34 consecutive starts without allowing more than six hits. He’s 3-1 in five career starts against the Cubs with a 2.70 ERA.