CHICAGO — Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price remembers what it was like to beat up on the Chicago Cubs.
It’s a much different picture right now.
Robert Stephenson was knocked out in the fourth inning and the Reds lost 9-2 to the Cubs on Wednesday night, completing a series sweep.
“I just couldn’t get into a rhythm today,” Stephenson said. “Obviously, I’ve been working on my mechanics, trying to make some tweaks here and there. I feel like in my bullpens my mechanics feel locked in. But then I get into a game and things just don’t go my way.”
The last-place Reds (63-89) lost for the seventh time in eight games. They managed just five runs and 19 hits in the three-game series.
Cincinnati went 37-17 against Chicago from 2012-14, winning the season series each year. But the Cubs went 13-6 against the Reds last year and have won 13 of 16 against them so far this season.
“Turnabout is fair play. That’s what we used to do to the Cubs,” Price said. “We used to go out there and roll them. Come in here and sweep a series. It was fairly common, at least winning two out of three. And they’ve had our number the last couple of years. That’s the back and forth of the game.”
Kris Bryant hit his 38th homer and Dexter Fowler also connected as major league-leading Chicago moved a season-high 42 games over .500. The Cubs (97-55) also matched their win total from a year ago and lowered their magic number for clinching home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs to two over Washington.
John Lackey (10-8) allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings in his first win since he beat the Angels on Aug. 9. The right-hander retired his last 14 batters and finished with just 87 pitches.
“I definitely felt like I got better as the game went along,” Lackey said.
Stephenson (2-2) was pulled with two out in the fourth and remains winless in four September starts. The rookie right-hander was charged with four runs and a career-high eight hits.
“There’s room for all his pitches to get better,” Price said. “He’s 23 years old. We certainly like the canvass we have to work with with Robert. He’s getting a lesson on what works and what doesn’t work.”
Jose Peraza hit a tying RBI single in Cincinnati’s two-run second, but Chicago pulled away from there. Miguel Montero hit an RBI single in the third and a two-run single with two out in the sixth. The veteran catcher also scored on Michael Lorenzen’s balk in the fifth.
Bryant capped the scoring with a two-run shot to left in the seventh. It was Bryant’s 10th homer of the year against Cincinnati, tied for the second most for a single season against the Reds.
Peraza went 2 for 4 and is batting .357 (30 for 84) in his last 22 games. … The Reds were swept for the 11th time this season. … Joey Votto went 1 for 4 with a double. He is batting .340 (18 for 53) in 16 games against the Cubs this year.
Reds: Price said RHP Homer Bailey (biceps) could start Sunday at Milwaukee after there were “no negatives” following his Tuesday bullpen session. “He’s looked very good to me,” Price said. “I think if he’s 100 percent I’d like to see him pitch.” If Bailey can’t go, Price said LHP Brandon Finnegan or RHP Tim Adleman would start.
Cubs: LHP Jon Lester said he was fine a day after he had a liner go off his right wrist in the sixth inning of Chicago’s 6-1 victory on Tuesday night.
Reds: Following a day off, the Reds begin a weekend series at Milwaukee. Cincinnati RHP Anthony DeSclafani (8-4, 3.15 ERA) gets the ball on Friday night.
Cubs: RHP Jake Arrieta (17-7, 2.96 ERA) faces St. Louis RHP Mike Leake (9-10, 4.54 ERA) on Friday afternoon. Manager Joe Maddon said he plans to play the weekend series “straight up” out of respect for the Cardinals’ competition in the wild-card race.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap