Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo. Photo by Brian Kersey/UPI | License Photo
CINCINNATI -- Tommy La Stella has appeared in only nine games this season. But, manager Joe Maddon appreciates how he comes to the ballpark every day ready to play.
"He understands his role perfectly," Maddon said. "Some guys get annoyed (over lack of playing time). He never gets annoyed."
On Sunday afternoon, La Stella made his first start in the leadoff spot to spell Dexter Fowler in center sparked another big day for the Cubs' offense.
Anthony Rizzo homered twice and Jason Hammel allowed only three hits in seven innings as Chicago defeated the Cincinnati Reds 9-0 in the finale of a four-game series on Sunday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.
"Up and down the lineup, another wonderful day," said Maddon. "And, to do that without having to get (Ben) Zobrist and Fowler involved was great. To get them two days off (with Monday's off day) ... nothing to complain about."
La Stella went 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles and his first homer for Chicago (14-5), which scored a combined 38 runs in the four-game series.
Following his big day, La Stella joked that Fowler's job wasn't in jeopardy.
"I think he's safe for the time being," La Stella said, smiling. "Winning's the name of the game here. Whatever we have to do. It's been long enough for this organization."
Alfredo Simon (0-2) returned from injury but struggled for Cincinnati (9-10), which now has lost nine of its last 10 to Chicago.
Simon was scratched from his last start due to right biceps tendinitis which he said affected his arm angle. The result was eight earned runs and two homers in 2 2/3 innings.
But the Cubs jumped on Simon again on Sunday when La Stella doubled and scored on Jason Heyward's single putting them ahead 1-0 in the first. Heyward went 4-for-5 with a double and three RBIs. After going 0-for-9 in the first two games of the St. Louis series, Heyward has rebounded well.
"In that 0-for-9, he hit the ball so well, a lot of times a guy will go unlucky for a bit and want to change things," Maddon said. "But, he didn't do that. He continued to play it."
On a 1-2 pitch, Rizzo crushed his seventh home run to center, a two-run shot to make the score 3-0.
Rizzo's home run was reviewed for possible fan interference but the ruling stood, giving the Cubs first baseman four homers in five games.
"Just poor execution," said manager Bryan Price of Simon's performance. "He didn't have a pitch to finish off anybody today. He said his arm was feeling good. We have to get him back to being sharp and getting his pitches down."
There was no doubt about Rizzo's home run in his next at-bat which traveled 414 feet into the grassy area in center in the third inning. The two-run blast made the score 7-0 and gave Rizzo 109 career homers to move him into 18th place on the club's all-time list.
"Rizz had a nice day," said Maddon. "He and (hitting coach) Johnny (Mallee) were working on a couple of things, making a little adjustment. He looked really good."
It was 8-0 when Simon exited after just 2 2/3 innings after allowing eight earned runs and two homers over 74 pitches. "Just a tough lineup," said Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart of the Cubs. "If you make a mistake against them, it's tough to get it back. It seems like they have a (No.) 3 or 4 hitter coming to the plate every time."
La Stella capped a fine afternoon with a homer leading off the sixth inning off Drew Hayes making the score 9-0.
Hammel was in control throughout his six innings, giving up only three hits with two walks and seven strikeouts, joining Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester with 3-0 marks to begin the season.
"That's as well as he can throw a baseball," said Maddon of Hammel. "Fastball velocity, location ... I was really impressed with him today."
NOTES: The Cubs started a season 14-5 or better for the third time in franchise history. They were 14-5 in 1969 and 16-3 in 1907. ... In a scoring change from Saturday's game, a throwing error by Cubs 3B Addison Russell in the eighth inning was changed to a single for Reds SS Zack Cozart. ... Reds CF Billy Hamilton who missed two games with a wrist injury, entered Sunday's game in the seventh. ... Reds RHP Anthony DeSclafani had a successful 60-pitch rehab start for Pensacola on Saturday. His next start will be April 28 at Class A Dayton.