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With tough stretch looming, Cubs complete sweep of Reds

Maybe the Cubs finally are pairing good hitting with good pitching.

In their 9-0 victory Sunday against the Reds that completed a four-game sweep, the Cubs were sharp pretty much everywhere. Kyle Hendricks (10-10) pitched seven scoreless innings to continue a stretch of seven consecutive games in which Cubs starters have allowed two or fewer runs. David Bote and Kyle Schwarber hit home runs. And Jason Heyward had four hits as the Cubs climbed a season-high 23 games above .500.

The Cubs hope the sweep — one that saw recent acquisitions Cole Hamels and Daniel Murphy play big roles — is a sign of more to come.

‘‘You look at the history of this team, the second half’s kind of our ‘go’ point,’’ Schwarber said. ‘‘Obviously, we hit the little skid there with the offensive side, but we’re just going to keep doing our thing. There’s no panic on our side at all. We’re in a great spot. If we just go out there and keep putting out these team games that we’ve been putting out there, things are going to trend in the right way.’’

The Cubs' David Bote, right, celebrates with Jason Heyward after hitting a two-run home run during the third inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

That would be helpful because the next two weeks might be a defining stretch of the season.

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The Cubs have to face Noah Syndergaard on Monday and Jacob DeGrom on Tuesday in the first two games of their three-game series against the Mets. Then they go to Atlanta for a makeup game Thursday, when they might face Mike Foltynewicz.

That will be followed by series in Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Washington, all of which could test the Cubs as their season approaches crunch time.

‘‘We have to continue to trend properly offensively, too, [and] keep pitching like we are,’’ manager Joe Maddon said before the game. ‘‘We’ve talked about that — where our pitching and our offense at some point need to match up — and hopefully this is the time it’s going to do that.’’

Indeed, the starting rotation has begun to emerge. In the Cubs’ last seven games, their starters have a 1.62 ERA in 44 1/3 innings. Hendricks followed up his strong start Tuesday in Detroit with a better one against the Reds.

‘‘We’ve been on a really good run the last week or two,’’ Hendricks said. ‘‘Just been throwing the ball real well as a staff. Bullpen’s still been keeping up their end. It’s nice to just feel that roll one start after another, guys going out there and just performing and making pitches.’’

Schwarber talked about the importance of winning the National League Central and clinching the best record in the league, which would give the Cubs home-field advantage through the NL playoffs.

‘‘We know what we’ve got in the room, and we know what kind of potential we have,’’ Schwarber said. ‘‘If we just go out there and we play our game, good things are going to happen for us.’’