CHICAGO (AP) — Carlos Villanueva had a better start than his last appearance. He just couldn’t finish off innings that left him with a similar outcome.
Villanueva (1-4) was tagged for five runs — all with two outs in the fourth and fifth innings — and nine hits as the Cincinnati Reds beat the Chicago Cubs 8-2 on Sunday.
“I thought I had good stuff, a lot better plan today,” Villanueva said referring to his previous start when he gave up a career-high nine runs over three-plus innings in a 10-4 loss to St. Louis. “Just, you know, one pitch away those two innings . you’ve got to be able to (finish).”
With two outs in the fourth, Devin Mesoraco and Zack Cozart hit back-to-back RBI doubles to take a 2-0 lead. Later in the inning, pitcher Homer Bailey helped himself with an RBI single to extend the lead to 3-0.
Todd Frazier added an RBI double and Ryan Ludwick a run-scoring single off Villanueva in the fifth inning.
Cubs manager Rick Renteria tried to stick with Villanueva even though he labored through his final two innings before getting pulled with two outs in the fifth.
“We tried to get him through (the fifth inning),” Renteria said. “But you could see he was tiring a little bit. He was giving us what he had and we were hoping to get through that”
Bailey (1-1) pitched six scoreless innings for his first win of the season and Jay Bruce homered and doubled for Cincinnati.
Bailey struck out eight while allowing six hits and three walks.
“He hasn’t been his normal dominant self, but his slider has gotten a lot better,” Reds manager Bryan Price said of Bailey. “It’s a pitch that he’s worked on for a long time, it seems like that pitch has really turned a corner and got him some big outs today, big strikeouts on both left-handed and right-handed hitters. . It was a solid outing but not his best.
Cozart hit a two-run homer for Cincinnati, which took two of three this weekend from the Cubs and has won 17 of its last 19 games at Wrigley Field.
Mesoraco had three hits and has at least one in all nine game he’s played this season. He leads the team in RBIs with 11. He missed the first week of the season with a strained oblique. Later in the inning, Bailey helped himself with an RBI single to extend the lead to 3-0.
The Reds have won 10 straight when Bailey faces the Cubs. He is 7-0 in his last 10 outings against Chicago and 5-0 in his past six at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs have lost six of their last seven.
Cubs reliever Jose Veras served up Bruce’s leadoff shot in the seventh and Cozart’s two-run shot two outs later.
Billy Hamilton’s speed caught first baseman Anthony Rizzo and Villanueva by surprise in the third inning. Hamilton hit a routine grounder to Rizzo, but he wasn’t able to get to the base or flip to Villanueva as Hamilton beat both to first. Hamilton stole second base for his seventh stolen base, but was stranded after Villanueva struck out Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips.
In the bottom half, Emilio Bonifacio stole second base, but the call was reversed after a successful challenge by Reds manager Bryan Price.
The Cubs didn’t score until the seventh, getting a pair of RBI singles from Ryan Sweeney and Nate Schierholtz off reliever Manny Parra. Parra was lifted with one out and the bases loaded. Sam LeCure entered and got Welington Castillo to ground into a double play.
Reds reliever Sean Marshall made his season debut in the ninth. He started the season on the DL with a sore left shoulder.
NOTES: Ludwick was back in the lineup after missing Saturday’s game with a bruised left big toe sustained when he fouled a pitch off his foot on Friday. Price said Ludwick was held out because of concerns about his ability to run and cut defensively. . Reds RHP Mike Leake (2-1, 2.95) is scheduled to face Pirates LHP Francisco Liriano (0-3, 3.96) to open a four-game series in Pittsburgh on Monday at 7:05 p.m. . The Cubs kick off a four-game home series against Arizona on Monday at 7:05 p.m. with LHP Travis Wood (0-2, 3.00) scheduled to start against RHP Bronson Arroyo (1-1, 9.95). ... Mesoraco’s nine-game hitting streak is a career-high. ...Villanueva struck out seven.