CHICAGO -- Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo smacked back-to-back home runs, reliever Mike Montgomery hit his first career double, driving in two runs, and Jon Jay missed hitting for a natural cycle by a home run to power the Cubs to a 15-5 victory Monday night over the Reds at Wrigley Field.
With the win, the Cubs opened a 1 1/2-game lead over the idle Cardinals in the National League Central. This four-game series against the Reds is the beginning of a 13-game stretch for the Cubs against last-place teams.
"We have to take care of ourselves, and that's it," said Rizzo, who finished with five RBIs, one shy of his career high.
Jose Quintana benefited from the offense, picking up his third win since he was acquired by the Cubs but his first since July 23. The lefty's pitch count escalated after a 36-pitch second, which prompted his exit after five. Montgomery took over and delivered at the plate in a six-run seventh with his double.
The game was tied at 2 with two outs in the Chicago fourth against Cincinnati starter Asher Wojciechowski and a runner at first when Jay hit an RBI triple. He then scored on Tommy La Stella's single, and Bryant followed with his 22nd home run. Rizzo then hit his 27th, a 430-foot rocket that cleared the right-field bleachers and landed on Sheffield Avenue, to chase Wojciechowski. It's the eighth time this season the Cubs have hit back-to-back homers, and third time in the last four games.
"Give us credit -- offensively, some really good at-bats," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We have to tighten it up on defense. I don't want to be 'Debbie Downer,' but we've got to be tighter on defense."
Second baseman Scooter Gennett hit his 20th home run in the Reds' eighth and then took the mound in the Cubs' half, walking Jason Heyward before serving up a two-run homer to Javier Baez. The Cubs have now hit 51 homers since the All-Star break, tops in the Major Leagues.
It was a good start to what Cubs manager Joe Maddon has dubbed "American Legion Week," an attempt to counter the so-called dog days of August. Players are encouraged to show up and play, with little pregame activity.
"We had a lot of guys on base, both teams did. They were able to take advantage of it a bit more," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "They had a lot more contact over the course of the ballgame, which led to a lot more runs. Both teams had a lot of scoring opportunities. The pitching wasn't sharp for either side."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Defense, Part I: The Cubs missed what seemed like an easy throw and made one that was more difficult in the Reds' second. Cincinnati loaded the bases when Eugenio Suarez walked, Gennett singled, and Devin Mesoraco was hit by a pitch. Patrick Kivlehan hit a comebacker to Quintana, who tried to flip to catcher Alex Avila for the force at home, but it was a poor toss and Suarez scored on the error. One out later, Billy Hamilton singled to left to drive in a run and tie the game at 2. Tucker Barnhart, who had come in to run for Mesoraco, also tried to score but was thrown out at home on a perfect strike by left fielder Kyle Schwarber.
"[Quintana] probably should've given up one run if he made the proper flip to the plate," Maddon said. "He had good stuff, velocity good, but command was off."
And Schwarber's throw?
"That was a big play at that point -- perfect throw and good tag by Alex, too," Maddon said.
Defense, Part II: How many outfielders does it take to stop Joey Votto? With one out in the Reds' fifth and Votto at the plate, Bryant moved from third base to left-center to give the Cubs four outfielders -- Schwarber, Bryant, Jay and Heyward. Votto dodged them all when he lined a double down the right-field line. But Votto was stranded as Quintana retired Adam Duvall, walked Suarez and then got Gennett to fly out to center. Votto also singled in the seventh, and now has reached base safely at least twice in a club-record 19 consecutive games, two shy of an MLB record.
"No matter the infield setup, no matter the alignment of the infield or outfield, I do the exact same thing," Votto said. "It's when I get caught up in what's going on defensively when I get myself into trouble, [like] changing my approach."
Maddon said he used that alignment in Tampa Bay against hitters such as David Ortiz, Jim Thome and Josh Hamilton.
"Votto right now is ungodly," Maddon said. "We'll continue to throw it out there when we think it's the right thing to do." More >
MESORACO LEAVES WITH FOOT FRACTURE
Batting in second inning, Mesoraco was hit on the left foot by a Quintana pitch and hobbled a few steps before heading to first base. After Mesoraco went to second base on the fielder's choice play that followed, he still appeared to be hurting and exited the game. Barnhart ran for Mesoraco -- who has dealt with nagging injuries each of the last three seasons -- and took over behind the plate. X-rays revealed that Mesoraco has a small fracture of his foot near the pinky toe. He is being sent to Cincinnati on Tuesday for an MRI. More >
"We're just focused on ourselves. If we go out there and chill up and do what we're supposed to do, we'll be fine." -- Jay, on the Cubs in the tight division race
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• After he singled in the first, doubled in the third, and tripled in the fourth, Jay flied out to center in the sixth, was intentionally walked in the seventh, and flied out in the eighth. If he had homered, it would've been the 15th natural cycle and second ever by a Cubs player. Hall of Famer Billy Williams accomplished the feat on July 17, 1966. The last player to hit a natural cycle was Gary Matthews Jr., who did so for the Rangers on Sept. 13, 2006, against the Tigers. More >
• Montgomery's hit was the first double with the bases loaded by a Cubs pitcher since Carlos Zambrano did so, July 17, 2005.
• Gennett's homer gave the Reds a club-record-tying five players with at least 20 in a season, matching a feat accomplished in 2008 and 1956. Five Major League teams all-time have had seven players with 20 homers, and 17 clubs have had six players do it.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Schwarber led off the Cubs' seventh, and was hit by a pitch on the foot by the Reds' Drew Storen. At least, that was Schwarber's take. Home-plate umpire Ronald Kulpa didn't agree, and the Cubs challenged the call. After a review, the ruling was overturned and Schwarber was awarded first.
WHAT'S NEXT Reds: It will be his 11th start in the big leagues but rookie Luis Castillo's first time facing the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Tuesday at 8:05 p.m. ET. Castillo has worked quality starts in each of his last three outings.
Cubs:Kyle Hendricks will make his 16th start of the season in the second game of a four-game series vs. the Reds. Hendricks is 3-3 with a 3.11 ERA in his last 12 starts, and has given up six or fewer hits in 14 of his 15 starts. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT.