CINCINNATI — Reds right fielder Aristides Aquino hit three home runs in his first three at-bats Saturday night against the Cubs, putting on a power display that seemed to shock even Cincinnati fans.
Kyle Hendricks had one of his worst games as a Cub in the 10-1 loss, lasting only 2 2/3 innings and giving up seven runs on a career-high 12 hits. His earned-run average rose from 3.06 to 3.48.
Sonny Gray and the Reds bullpen shut out the Cubs until the ninth, when Kyle Schwarber homered to center, his 27th.
With the loss, the Cubs only can hope for a split in the four-game series, leaving them winless in all eight road series against National League Central opponents. They haven’t won any of their last 11 road series since May 15-17 against the Nationals in Washington and are 22-35 on the road, with 13 losses in their last 19 games away from Wrigley Field.
Jon Lester, who gave up 11 runs (nine earned) in four innings in his last start, faces Reds ace Luis Castillo in Sunday’s series finale.
Lester called himself the “weakest link” of the rotation afterward, which manager Joe Maddon disputed Saturday.
“That’s just Jon being himself,” he said. “He actually believes that, which is not true. But it serves as self-motivation for him too. It’s just a veteran player who has been around that’s not afraid to say something to try to inspire others and be accountable and be responsible. That’s just who he is.
“But I also believe that he believes that way now, and he is going to do something about it.”
What Lester will do to try to stop Aquino will bear watching.
Aquino, who also homered in each of the first two games of the series, has seven homers in the first 10 games of his career, tying the Rockies’ Trevor Story for the most in that span in the live-ball era, according to MLB Stats. He tied Eric Davis’ franchise record for rookies by homering in four straight games.
A 25-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic, Aquino struggled so much the last two seasons in the Reds system that they nontendered him last winter and re-signed him to a minor league deal the next day.
Aquino hit a 344-foot home run to left in the second off Hendricks and followed with a 385-foot blast off Hendricks in the third. Dillon Maples, called up earlier when Steve Cishek went on the 10-day injured list with left hip inflammation, fared no better facing Aquino in the fourth.
Aquino cranked a 452-foot homer to left-center, after which the crowd of 39,866 asked him make a curtain call. He became the 12th player to homer in three consecutive innings, joining Kris Bryant, who accomplished the feat in Washington on May 17.
Attempting to tie the single-game major league record of four home runs in a game, Aquino walked on four pitches in the sixth against Alec Mills, who was roundly booed. In his final shot at history in the seventh, Aquino went down swinging against Mills.
The last player to hit four homers against the Cubs was Mike Schmidt on April 17, 1976.
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