CHICAGO -- Homer Bailey had received plenty of run support in his first three starts without a win to show for it. The right-hander, who signed a six-year, $105 million deal in the offseason, started the season 0-1 with an 8.16 ERA while failing to make it past the fifth inning in any of those three starts.
Bailey once again got plenty of support, and finally returned the favor. His outing wasn't always pretty, but Bailey tossed six shutout innings, scattering six hits, walking three and striking out eight to pick up his first win of the season and vault the Reds to an 8-2 win and series victory over the Cubs on Sunday at Wrigley Field.
Reds manager Bryan Price said before the game that Bailey's poor start to the season would turn around soon, and that his No. 3 starter was simply struggling with his command.
"No, actually," Bailey said when asked if he thought he showed his best command of the season. "I walked three people and wasn't too happy about it. It's just kind of the ups and downs and I'm still trying to catch that rhythm. It seems like every time I take the mound the bats show up and I'm just glad I was finally able to help them out."
Bailey only threw one 1-2-3 inning and had to pitch out of several jams. The Cubs put two on with one out in the first but Bailey struck out Nate Schierholtz and got Starlin Castro to pop out to second.
In the third, Emilio Bonifacio singled with one out and tried to take second on a delayed steal. He was initially called safe but Price challenged, and the call was overturned after a review. It was a big overturn for the Reds as Bailey plunked Ryan Sweeney and walked Anthony Rizzo before striking out Schierholtz again.
The Cubs put two more on with one out in the fifth, but Bailey retired Rizzo and Schierholtz to strand the pair. Zack Cozart ended the sixth with a nice running catch into the Cubs bullpen down the left-field line, leaving two in scoring position.
"He hasn't been his normal, dominant self but his slider has gotten a lot better," Price said. "It's a pitch he's worked on for a long time. It seems like that pitch has really turned the corner and got him some big outs today, some big strikeouts on both the left-handed and right-handed hitters and that was a great silver lining in what was a solid outing, but not his best."
The offensive star of the game was Cozart in the No. 8 hole. He went 3-for-5 with a two-run homer, his first of the year, an RBI double and two runs scored, pacing a Reds offense that pounded out seven extra-base hits among 15 total. Cozart came into the series hitting .109. By game's end Sunday, he was up to .153, saying that "finally something" was working for him offensively.
"I've obviously been struggling a little bit, putting balls in play but not really finding holes," Cozart said. "I've felt better the past week just in general but still had nothing to show for it. The numbers show that, but today I just put some good swings on some balls and they found holes. Hopefully I can build on this and continue to get better."
"We're not going to expect three hits a game from him but he's a good offensive player, extremely capable offensive player and certainly his best days of the season are yet to come," Price said.
Honorable mention goes to Devin Mesoraco, who is red-hot at the plate. He finished 3-for-4 with an RBI double and two runs scored, raising his average to 515 (17-for-33) with three homers and 11 RBIs since coming off the disabled list April 8.
Cincinnati's No. 5 through 9 hitters collected 11 hits, scored six runs and drove in seven.
"For us to be where we want to be our 7-8-9, we need to pick it up and play well," Cozart said. Because we can't just rely on Joey [Votto] and Jay [Bruce] and Brandon [Phillips] just to get hits every time."
The Reds got on the board first with a three-run fourth inning. Mesoraco's two-out double scored Todd Frazier. Cozart followed with a run-scoring double of his own and Bailey helped his own cause with an RBI single to give the Reds a 3-0 lead.
Cincinnati again did damage the following inning with two outs. Back-to-back doubles by Bruce and Frazier made it 4-0 Reds. Ryan Ludwick tacked on one more with a single through the left side, scoring Frazier and chasing Cubs starter Carlos Villanueva.
The Reds went up, 8-0, in the seventh on Bruce's leadoff solo homer and Cozart's two-run shot.
"They did it throughout the lineup -- even Bailey got an RBI knock," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "All in all, I think we put together 11 or 12 hits, and ended up scoring a couple runs but we weren't able to minimize the damage as much as we'd like to."
Since starting the season 3-8, during which the Reds averaged just 2.5 runs per game, Cincinnati has turned things around offensively and the wins have followed. The Reds are scoring 5.8 runs per game during the current 5-2 stretch and have won their last two series after dropping the first four.
"Wasn't the prettiest game but we sure did swing the bats well," Price said. "Really nice to see that and really nice to have a spirited win on a getaway day and win the series."
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.