Santiago Espinal hits 2-run homer, Reds hold on to beat Cubs 5-4

CHICAGO (AP) — Santiago Espinal hit a two-run homer while pinch hitting in the seventh inning and the Cincinnati Reds held on to beat the sliding Chicago Cubs 5-4 on Friday.

Espinal, who entered hitting just .195, batted for Will Benson with zero outs and Jonathan India on first after a walk. He sent Drew Smyly’s first pitch into Wrigley Field’s left-center bleachers for his third homer, giving Cincinnati its first lead at 4-3.

“I just stay ready, stay prepared,” Espinal said. “It was a knuckle-curve right down the middle. I was just trying to be aggressive, get something up on the zone and got it.”

Tyler Stephenson had two hits and drove in a run for the Reds, who ended a two game slide.

Nick Martini added an RBI and TJ Friedl singled in an insurance run in the ninth. The Reds needed it.

Cincinnati closer Alexis Diaz entered the bottom of the ninth with a 5-3 lead. Pete Crow-Armstrong singled to lead off, then Diaz walked pinch-hitter Michael Busch.

Crow-Armstrong scored on Seiya Suzuki’s double to the left field corner with one out. But Nick Madrigal, who had reached on a force, was thrown out at the plate on a terrific relay thrown by shortstop Elly De La Cruz after left fielder Jacob Hurtubise fielded the ball quickly and hit De La Cruz at the cutoff position.

“That's the game right there,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Hit the cutoff man and when it's Elly, we want to get him the ball. We know what kind of arm he has. Everybody does.”

Cody Bellinger flied out to right to end it and Diaz got his 11th save. The Reds (25-32) won for the fifth time in seven games.

Ian Happ hit a two run-homer and walked with the bases loaded for three RBIs, but the Cubs lost their third straight and eighth in nine to fall two games below .500 (28-30).

Fernando Cruz (2-5), the first of four Reds relievers, tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings for the win.

Smyly (2-3) took the loss in relief of starter Javier Assad. The left-hander walked three in 1 1/3 innings.

“There's moments throughout the game that matter,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said. “When you add it all up, they did a little bit more that us today.”

Counsell was ejected in the bottom of the ninth.

With runners at first and second and no outs, Madrigal pinch hit for Patrick Wisdom. It wasn't clear if Diaz's inside pitch glanced Madrigal's hand or the the knob of his bat. Home plate umpire Brennan Miller ruled a foul ball and Counsell argued.

“Nick made a clear sign that he got hit, and (Miller) said that it hit the bat,” Counsell said.

UP NEXT

The Reds send RHP Hunter Green (3-2, 3.06) to the mound against LHP Justin Steele (0-2, 4.45) on Saturday. Green has made three straight quality starts, allowing five runs in 21 1/3 innings. Steele tossed seven scoreless innings in a no-decision at Milwaukee on Monday.

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