The Cincinnati Reds arrived in Chicago riding their best start in five years. The Cubs have a chance to exit the series with their best since 1969.
After another prosperous night at the plate, they'll seek to complete a three-game sweep against the Reds on Thursday night.
Cincinnati was a surprising 5-1 before coming to Wrigley Field and kept the potent Cubs lineup without a hit until the seventh inning Monday until faltering in a 5-3 defeat. Chicago (7-1) made sure it didn't need a late rally Wednesday and kept Reds starter Alfredo Simon from escaping a five-run first inning.
The Cubs forced Simon to throw 49 pitches before he exited with two outs and Cincinnati's staff had to deliver 188 in a 9-2 loss. Chicago's pitchers threw 121.
"Guys are trying to do the best they can. It just wasn't very efficient tonight," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Whenever you get outhit by one (8 to 7) and lose by seven that usually means there were some walks involved. ... It was a painful game to watch from a tempo perspective. We have to do better."
The Cubs' Kris Bryant hit his first home run, and each starter reached base as Chicago boosted its season run total to 56. The Cubs also lead MLB with 48 walks after drawing 10 on Wednesday.
"This lineup's deep," Chicago pitcher John Lackey said. "Looking from the other side as a pitcher, it's tough to get through without suffering a little bit of damage."
The Cubs haven't started 8-1 since beginning 11-1 with their legendary team that featured Ernie Banks, Ferguson Jenkins, Ron Santo, Billy Williams and manager Leo Durocher.
Jason Hammel will try to help deliver that while building on his strong season debut. The right-hander yielded one run in six innings Friday in Arizona but was denied the win when the Diamondbacks rallied for a 3-2 victory.
He also escaped a first-inning jam after giving up hits to each of the first two batters. Hammel had a 5.23 ERA in the opening inning in 2015.
Hammel went 1-0 with a 3.15 ERA in four outings against Cincinnati last season and pitched five scoreless innings in his final start, a 5-3 victory Oct. 1.
Reds starter Raisel Iglesias (1-0, 2.31 ERA) posted a 2.84 ERA and totaled 18 strikeouts in his two starts versus Chicago in his rookie campaign, but did not get a decision in either one. The right-hander yielded one run in 5 2-3 innings in Saturday's 5-1 victory against Pittsburgh.
Jason Heyward, who had a two-run single Wednesday, is 1 for 9 in his career against Iglesias and Bryant is 0 for 6.
Joey Votto is 4 for 23 lifetime against Hammel, his third-worst performance against any active pitcher he's faced at least 20 times. Eugenio Suarez, batting .400 with four homers, is 4 for 8 versus Hammel.
The statuses of Zack Cozart and Devin Mesoraco are unclear because of quad injuries. Both players were held out Wednesday, and Cozart is batting .313 in his last 15 matchups with Chicago.
The Cubs have won five straight over the Reds (5-3) and haven't completed a three-game home sweep in the series since Sept. 15-17, 2014.