By HAL McCOY
For the Chicago Cubs on Friday in Wrigley Field there was no Anthony Rizzo, no Kris Bryant, no Addison Russell and no problem against the Cincinnati Reds.
With the Cubs already champions of the National League East, three of their best players took a day off and the Cubs still handled the Reds, 5-4.
But it took a three-run home run in the eighth inning by University of Cincinnati product Ian Happ to rescue the win, a blast to left field off Michael Lorenzen against a 15 miles an hour wind.
And it cost Robert Stephenson a victory.
Without Reds killers Rizzo and Bryant, it made the day easier for Stephenson and he took full advantage, looking as if he might annex his sixth win this season against six losses.
After falling behind, 2-0, Stephenson held on until his teammates could score four runs in the fifth inning off Cubs starter Jose Quintana. But that’s all they would score.
Stephenson went five innings and gave up two runs (one earned), four hits and two walks. Strangely, Stephenson didn’t strike out a single hitter and he is a guy who started one game this season with six straight strikeouts.
But he made a strong statement down the stretch toward landing a spot in next year’s rotation by going 5-and-2 in his last eight starts, including Friday’s no-decision.
The Cubs scored two runs in the third inning on an infield hit, a walk, a throwing error by Joey Votto and a sacrifice fly.
Meanwhile, Quintana entered the game with a 7-and-3 record for the Cubs since he was acquired from the crosstown Chicago White Sox.
And he retired the first 11 Reds in order and he struck out the side in the third.
The spell was broken with two outs in the fourth when Joey Votto doubled to right field, the 315th time he has been on base this year, by far the best in the majors. And it extended his streak of getting on base in some manager to 30 straight.
The Reds, though, put it to Quintana in the fifth with four straight hits to open the inning — a double by Jesse Winker, a single by Jose Peraza, a run-scoring single by Scott Schebler and a run-scoring single by Tucker Barnhart to tie it, 2-2.
It looked as if the rally was over when Stephenson bunted into a double play. But Phillip Ervin singled to put the Reds ahead, 3-2, Cozart walked and Votto singled home the fourth run, his 100th RBI this season.
Kevin Shackelford replaced Stephenson in the sixth and gave up a single, but retired three Cubs via strikeouts.
Amir Garrett, still a candidate for next season’s rotation, was given some seventh and eighth inning work and gave up an infield hit but coaxed an inning-ending double play in the seventh.
Garrett retired the first hitter in the eighth, but when Tommy LaStella singled to center manager Bryan Price brought in Lorenzen.
He gave up an infield hit up the third base line to rookie Taylor Davis, then threw a wild pitch to put runners on third and second with one out.
He struck out Middletown native Kyle Schwarber for the second out, but Happ put a dynamite charge into a Lorenzen fast ball, the deciding three-run blast.
The Reds went meekly in the ninth as Justin Grimm retired Scott Schebler, Tucker Barnhart and pinch-hitter Adam Duvall.