Votto

Joey Votto went 4 for 4 with a walk to reach 1,801 career hits Friday night against the Chicago Cubs. | CINCINNATI REDS PHOTO

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Reds' starting pitcher Sonny Gray (4-5) tossed two-hit baseball for six innings Friday night, working into the seventh to help his team snap a four-game losing streak. Joey Votto went 4 for 4 and reached base five times for the Reds, who defeated the first-place Chicago Cubs by a score of 6-3 at Great American Ballpark. 

Gray struck out five of the first six Cubs he faced to help set the tone early.

"He had a really good breaking ball tonight and located his fastball well," Reds manager David Bell said. "Just a good solid game all the way till the end. He allowed the home run there at the end but that doesn't take anything away from what he did. He did everything he could. Great night for Sonny."

It was a good night for the Reds' offense as well.

The Reds went to work against Cole Hamels in the first. Joey Votto got the team's first hit, a line drive to right field, and Eugenio Suarez went to second base. Yasiel Puig's single loaded the bases and Jose Iglesias provided the RBI with a groundout to shortstop.

The Reds' offense did not get another chance to go after Hamels, who had been one of the hottest pitchers in the majors of late. The veteran southpaw had gone at least seven innings in five straight starts. But he left the game after feeling discomfort on his left side, according to the Cubs, after one warm-up pitch before the second inning.

The Reds' Phillip Ervin greeted his replacement, southpaw Mike Montgomery, with a solo home run to make it 2-0.

"Great game for Phil. That was really nice to see," David Bell said. "He stayed ready and got the opportunity against a left-handed starter tonight. That's good to see from Phillip."

Cincinnati sent Montgomery packing in the fourth with four runs. Rookie Nick Senzel had a two-run double in the inning and Iglesias an RBI sacrifice fly.

The Cubs rallied eventually, with Jason Heyward providing a two-run shot to the right-center field bleachers to knock Gray out, but the Cincinnati bullpen, which leads all National League pens with a 3.47 ERA, closed the door.

Michael Lorenzen came on in the eighth to replace Amir Garrett, who issued a one-out walk to Kris Bryant followed by hitting Anthony Rizzo.

Lorenzen got Javier Baez to ground out and then Willson Contreras dribbled a ball to Gennett to end the Cubs' rally.

Lorenzen allowed a single to Albert Almora but got two strikeouts to earn the save.

"We didn't have to use our entire bullpen. Michael came in in a big spot in the eighth and only used about five pitches. He set us up well for the rest of the weekend. We'll have Iggy. To get five outs against that team, it's not easy. He was really good," Bell said.

On Saturday, Luis Castillo squares off against Jose Quintana at 4:10 p.m at Great American Ballpark. 

The Reds have a chance to clinch a third straight series against the Cubs. Cincinnati is 5 1/2 games out of first and 4 1/2 out of the wild card. 

"We know what we're capable of and we know that there's gonna be ups and downs and peaks and valleys in the duration of the season. Tonight we took a step in the right direction," Gray said.

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