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Jun 7, 2024 5:56 am

Streaking Reds chase another victory over Cubs

Reds, Cubs, De La Cruz

Elly De La Cruz routinely makes a big splash, so naturally he was eager to do so on his one-year anniversary of reaching the major leagues.

De La Cruz celebrated the occasion Thursday with a three-run homer as the Reds continued their recent strong play. Now Cincinnati will look to defeat the visiting Chicago Cubs again on Friday in the second contest of a four-game set.

The flashy De La Cruz made his major league debut on June 6, 2023, at age 21 and instantly displayed he was ready. He stole 35 bases, hit 13 homers and played solid defense in 98 big-league games last year.

He is approaching those numbers through 63 appearances this season while again being slick in the field. De La Cruz also represents a symbol of hope for a franchise that has reached the postseason just once in the past 10 seasons.

De La Cruz learned prior to Cincinnati’s 8-4 victory on Thursday that it was the anniversary of his Reds debut.

“I saw that before the game and I say, ‘Let’s have fun,'” De La Cruz said afterward. “Like last year in my first game, let’s have some fun.”

The enjoyment level increased when De La Cruz lined a laser-like homer over the right field fence in the third inning, turning a two-run deficit into a 3-2 lead. He let fly with a hearty bat flip before running the bases.

“I’m always ready for the first pitch,” De La Cruz said of the homer, his 11th of the season, which came on a first-pitch cutter. “If I like the pitch, I’m going to swing (at) it.”

The blast provided the fuel for Cincinnati’s season-best fifth straight victory. Overall, the Reds have won 10 of their past 13 games.

“That was a big home run in that game,” Cincinnati manager David Bell said. “That was a big key to the game, getting down and being able to answer back. It was a three-run homer. They’re always nice, but I think that set the tone in particular.”

Slumping Chicago has dropped 10 of its past 14 games.

Seiya Suzuki and Christopher Morel hit two-run homers to account for the Cubs’ offense on Thursday. Suzuki has smacked three long balls in his past seven games after going 11 appearances without one.

“The home runs kept us in the game,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said. “Suzuki is one of the guys we need to step up.”

Another player Chicago needs to step up is left-hander Justin Steele (0-2, 4.10 ERA), who takes the mound Friday still searching for his first win.

This comes after a breakout 2023 season in which Steele went 16-5 and was a first-time All-Star.

Steele had his season get off to a rough start as his Opening Day outing against the Texas Rangers ended after 4 2/3 innings when he injured his left hamstring while fielding a bunt.

Steele missed the entire month of April. Not long after returning, he allowed 16 runs (15 earned) in 16 innings over a three-start stretch.

The 28-year-old Mississippi native faced Cincinnati last Saturday and gave up five runs (one earned), seven hits and four walks while striking out five in five innings.

Steele is 2-3 with a 6.68 ERA in nine career appearances (seven starts) against Cincinnati. Tyler Stephenson is 8-for-13 with a homer off Steele, while Spencer Steer is 5-for-9.

Cincinnati left-hander Nick Lodolo (5-2, 3.11 ERA) will look for his third straight victory since returning from a left groin injury that sidelined him for two-plus weeks.

Lodolo defeated the Cubs last Sunday when he gave up two runs and seven hits over six innings. He struck out three and walked one.

Lodolo, 26, has allowed two or fewer runs in five of his eight starts this season.

He is 1-1 with a 4.02 ERA in three career outings against the Cubs. Nico Hoerner is 3-for-8 against Lodolo.

–Field Level Media

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