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Alec Mills tosses six scoreless innings as Cubs defeat Reds

Mills induced a season-high 13 swings and misses and struck out six in the 3-0 victory.

Cubs starting pitcher Alec Mills delivers during the first inning against the Reds on Tuesday at Wrigley Field.
Cubs starting pitcher Alec Mills delivers during the first inning against the Reds on Tuesday at Wrigley Field.
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

The Cubs’ rotation has taken its lumps the last several weeks, with two starters going on the 10-day injured list and others not named Yu Darvish or Kyle Hendricks taking steps backward.

After Hendricks’ gem on Monday made up for a less-than-stellar start last week, right-hander Alec Mills also got himself back on track after compiling a 7.66 ERA over his last five starts.

Mills quieted a potent Reds lineup on a wet and chilly Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, leading the Cubs to a 3-0 win in the series opener and giving them exactly what they’ll need down the stretch.

“I think we’re struggling a little bit as a rotation outside of [Hendricks and Darvish],” Mills said. “But at the same time, we know how to pitch. We know how to get outs.”

Mills (4-3) looked ready from the start as he stayed ahead of hitters, kept himself out of dangerous counts and controlled both sides of the plate with a variety of fastballs. He got 13 swings-and-misses against the Reds, his most in a start this season.

“Tonight, I really just made pitches when I needed them,” he said. “I think that was the big thing. I hadn’t been doing that lately, so really just focused up.”

The Cubs jumped ahead 2-0 in the second inning on David Bote’s two-out, two-run triple over the head of Nick Castellanos in right field. Javy Baez had the same idea in the third, lining an RBI triple of his own to right to extend the lead.

Mills tossed six scoreless innings, allowing just four hits. He walked four and struck out six before handing things over to the bullpen in the seventh.

It was Mills’ second start allowing two runs or fewer this season, and his first since shutting out the Royals on Aug. 3.

“I thought he attacked the hitters. Tough environment out there tonight,” manager David Ross said. “He threw strike one early on, especially the first couple of times to the lineup. I thought he was ahead of the hitters, just felt like he was commanding the fastball early, making them commit to the heater.

“A lot like Kyle when he’s commanding the fastball, I think it just sets everything else up and it doesn’t matter what the lineup looks like.”

Hamilton in, Martinez out

The Cubs activated outfielder Billy Hamilton before the game and sent designated hitter and first baseman Carlos Martinez to alternate site South Bend.

Martinez was one of the Cubs’ acquisitions at the trade deadline but got off to an 0-for-14 start. Hamilton was claimed off waivers from the Mets on Tuesday.

“We need [Martinez],” Ross said. “I think he’s a really valuable piece that we feel can help us. With his timing right now just being so off, and where he feels like he’s at, at the plate and just getting consistent at-bats, we have two off days, so he’s really only going to miss eight games in the [next] 10 days, is the hope.”