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Ian Happ's two HRs help Chicago Cubs top Cincinnati Reds in series finale

By Jeff Wallner, The Sports Xchange
Chicago Cubs' Ian Happ runs the bases after hitting a home run. File photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/UPI
Chicago Cubs' Ian Happ runs the bases after hitting a home run. File photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/UPI | License Photo

CINCINNATI -- Joe Maddon's litmus test to evaluate Jake Arrieta's stuff on Sunday was how he fared against Joey Votto, arguably one of the best hitters in all of baseball.

Votto went 1-for-3 against Arrieta with a strikeout but managed to do something against him no other Reds batter could -- get a hit.

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Arrieta allowed only a single by Votto through seven innings, Ian Happ homered twice and Anthony Rizzo added a solo shot, helping the Chicago Cubs avoid a sweep with a 6-2 victory over the Cincinnatio Reds.

Arrieta, pitching in Great American Ball Park where he hurled a no-hitter on April 21, 2016, looked unhittable at times during his seven frames. He retired 10 straight in one stretch and 19 of the final 20 batters he faced.

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"Votto did not have good at-bats against him, that tells me his stuff was very good," Maddon said. "That was as good as we've seen Jake in a bit. If he keeps pitching with that command, the confidence is going to come up. I was just watching their hitters react."

The Cubs' offensive star was Ian Happ, who, while starring at the University of Cincinnati, regularly attended games at Great American Ball Park and even played there once against the University of Louisville in 2013. On Sunday, Happ went 3-for-4 with two homers and tied a career high with four RBIs.

"I feel good about how I've been swinging the bat the past couple weeks," Happ said. "I've had some pretty good ABs. I'm just trying to go out there and play good baseball and compete every day."

The victory helped Chicago (41-41) avoid its first three-game sweep in Cincinnati since 1996. The Cubs have beaten the Reds in 24 of the past 31 meetings.

"Two thumbs up," Maddon said when asked about going 5-6 on the road trip. "The hitting has fluctuated. The pitching has fluctuated. Everybody's doing their part which is why we're .500. But, we're getting guys back (healthy). Impressed with how we continue to fight."

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Cubs second baseman Javier Baez, who entered Sunday's game 1-for-16, went 3-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI.

Votto's two-out single in the first inning was the only hit allowed by Arrieta (8-6), who had two walks and six strikeouts in 100 pitches.

Arrieta credited an improved changeup on Sunday that helped him avoid the command issues he has experienced throughout the season.

"Getting more comfortable with it," Arrieta said. "It's opening up some doors, allowing me to do some more things. It's a big pitch for me. The two walks, I'm OK with that, as long as I can swing things back in my favor with some quick outs."

Votto's two-run single in the eighth -- his 1,499th career hit -- off Koji Uehara, made the score 6-2 and raised his average to a season-high .317. But the Reds couldn't mount a rally.

In the second, Happ launched a 2-2 pitch from Reds starter Tim Adleman to deep center, putting the Cubs ahead 2-0. Adleman (5-5) allowed three earned runs, six hits and two homers in five innings.

In the fourth inning, Happ clubbed his 12th homer for his second career multi-home run game. He is only the third Cubs player in the past 100 seasons to have at least 11 homers in his first 45 games. Happ had a large contingent of family and friends in attendance throughout this weekend's series.

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"This is home away from home, via Pittsburgh," Maddon said. "He really dropped the barrel a couple times. He can do a lot of things for us."

Happ added a broken-bat single off Blake Wood to drive in a run in the sixth to make the score 4-0. It was the third time this season he has had four RBIs in a game.

"I really like the opposite-field single, scoring a run, we need more of that," Maddon said. "He had a wonderful day, obviously."

Rizzo's towering solo home run in the seventh off Austin Brice made the score 5-0. Rizzo's 19th homer of the season landed on the roof of the home bullpen in right field.

"They were just better today," said Reds manager Bryan Price. "Arrieta was really good. He didn't give us much. We only hit a couple balls on the barrel. This homestand (winning) four out of six works. That has to be our mantra for the rest of the year -- we have to pitch better."

NOTES: The Reds haven't swept the Cubs in Cincinnati since Sept. 24-26, 1996, at Cinergy Field. ... Reds RHP Asher Wojciechowski's contract was selected from Triple-A Louisville to give them an extra bullpen arm for a seven-game road trip to Colorado. . . . Arizona. RHP Jackson Stephens, who posted his first major league victory on Saturday, was optioned to Triple-A. LHP Brandon Finnegan was moved to the 60-day disabled list. ... Cubs RF Ben Zobrist made his first start since coming off the disabled list and went 0-for-4.

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