CINCINNATI (AP) — Matt Szczur doubled home two runs with two outs in the ninth inning, and Miguel Montero followed with a homer as the Chicago Cubs finished one of their most successful seasons with a flourish, beating the Cincinnati Reds 7-4 on Sunday.
With victory No. 103 in the books, the Cubs headed back to Wrigley Field for their first playoff game on Friday against the winner of the NL wild-card game.
The Cubs led the majors with their most victories since 1910. That’s no longer the reference point, however. The postseason focus is 1908, the last time they won a World Series.
The final series at Great American Ball Park was more about personal milestones. Jon Lester failed to get his 20th win on Saturday, and Kyle Hendricks finished as the ERA leader at 2.13 on Sunday despite a ragged performance. He gave up four runs and six hits in five innings, forcing in one run with a bases-loaded walk.
Hendricks hadn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of his last 22 starts. He came into the game with a 1.99 ERA, hoping to become the third Cubs pitcher in the last 96 years to finish below 2.00.
The meaningful statistic now: Hendricks’ 1.32 ERA at Wrigley Field this season, the best home ERA in the majors.
The Cubs have pulled off improbable comebacks all season, and had one more left. After Raisel Iglesias (3-2) retired the first two batters in the ninth, Chicago pulled ahead with a walk, a single and Szczur’s double. Montero’s homer was a major league record 103rd allowed by Reds relievers.
Justin Grimm (2-1) retired the one batter he faced for the win. Carl Edwards Jr. got his second save.
Cincinnati’s Joey Votto singled in four at-bats, giving him a .408 average since the All-Star break. He’s the first player in the majors to bat .400 after the break since Ichiro Suzuki hit .429 in 2004.
The Reds finished 68-94. Combined with last year’s 98 losses, it’s the first time they’ve had back-to-back 90-loss seasons since 1933-34. Attendance at Great American Ball Park was 1,894,085, a significant drop from the 2.4 million they drew last season while hosting the All-Star Game.
Cubs: Jorge Soler was in left field after missing a week with a sore right side. He went 0 for 2 with a walk.
Reds: 2B Brandon Phillips missed the last five games with a bruised left hand.
Cubs: Await the winner of Wednesday’s NL wild-card playoff game hosted by the Mets against San Francisco. Manager Joe Maddon hasn’t announced his pitching rotation for the playoffs, although it’s likely to start with Lester. Chicago will work out on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Reds: Manager Bryan Pena got a one-year contract extension on Friday, answering the biggest offseason question.