By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — Maybe the Chicago Cubs became lackadaisical against the Cincinnati Reds, too confident, even cocky.
After beating and bruising and breaking bones while winning the first five games against the Reds this season, the Cubs took a 13-5 beating Saturday night.
That, apparently, snapped the Cubs back to attention against the Reds, made certain the Reds knew Saturday was an aberration and that the Cubs are the Alpha Dog in this relationship.
The Cubs turned the Reds into tail-wagging puppies on this day, scoring a 9-0 victory while Chicago starter Jason Hammel held the Reds to three singles and a walk in six innings.
And the Cubs bullpen added three hitless, scoreless innings.
THE CUBS CAME OUT clubbing early Sunday against Reds starter Alfredo Simon, three in the first, two in the second, three in the third — well, you catch the drift.
Chicago first baseman Anthony Rizzo hit a pair of two-run home runs in his first two at bats, one in the first and one in the third. Jason Heyward drove in three with a first-inning single and a third-inning single.
Dexter Fowler normally leads off for the Cubs and is hitting .385 with an on base percentage of .509. Manager Joe Maddon gave him Sunday off, but what does it matter with these Grizzlie Bears?
Fowler’s replacement, Tommy La Stella, doubled in the first inning and doubled in the second inning and scored both times. And to sweeten his own pot, when La Stella came up in the sixth he hit his first home run of the season, a blast off Drew Hayes to make it 9-0.
Reds leadof hitter Zack Cozart was given the day off, too, but his replacement, Scott Schebler went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts. He wasn’t alone in his futility.
SIMON GAVE UP three hits in each of the first three innings before leaving with two outs in the third, having given up eight runs and nine hits. His last three appearances — two starts and an inning of relief — have resulted in 4 2/3 innings, 17 runs (16 earned) and 16 hits, a 33.23 earned run average.
Simon was returning after missing a start with arm tendinitis, but that wasn’t Sunday’s problem.
“It was poor execution and he didn’t have a pitch to finish anybody today,” said manager Bryan Price. “We’re throwing a lot of pitches (Simon threw 70 in 2 2/3 innings). That’s the stuff that can’t happen. The good news is his arm feels good and the bad news was that he didn’t have good results.
“He wasn’t sharp down in the strike zone and wasn’t banging those sinkers to get some early contact on the ground,” Price added. “We have to get our pitch counts down to keep our starters in the game and it is not just Alfredo. Our bullpen is way overused in April and that’s unfortunate.”
IN ORDER TO ATTEMPT to iron out the vast wrinkles in relief pitcher J.J. Hoover’s game he was inserted in the seventh inning with the score 9-0 and went 1-2-3. And he retired the first two in the eighth — five straight — but in the blink of a fastball the Cubs had the bases loaded on a double and two walks and Hoover had to be removed. Ross Ohendorf retrieved the last out.
Hoover, who hasn’t shown a propensity for throwing pitches inside, threw some inside to push the Cubs off the plate while retiring the first five.
“He was better, especially his first inning when he got two quick outs,” Price said of Hoover. “He gave up a double and a couple of walks with two outs in his second inning, but his stuff was better.”
Meanwhile, Cubs starter Jason Hammel retired the first six Reds, four via strikeouts, before Tucker Barnhart led the bottom of the third with a single to right. Hammel stuck around for six innings and gave up no runs and three hits en route to a 3-and-0 record and a 0.75 earned run average.
“Hammel is a polished veteran experienced pitcher right,” there,” said Price. “He is a guy who had his own challenges when he came into the league with Tampa Bay years back and he has put some real polish on his game and become a top of the rotation type guy if his team didn’t have Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester at the top of the rotation.
“He controls the strike zone with good stuff,” said Price. “He throws up sliders and curves for strikes when he is behind in the count. He commands his fastball in good counts and he is always in good counts.”
So the Reds have lost six of seven this year to the Cubs and finished the homestead 3-and-5. A six-game trip is staring at them beginning Monday with a three-game series in New York against the Mets and then three over the weekend in Pittsburgh.