CHICAGO - Matt Harvey said he had total command of his pitches for "the first time in a long time."
The Reds right-hander shut out the first-place Chicago Cubs for six innings, but no sooner did he leave with a 2-0 lead than former University of Cincinnati star Ian Happ spoiled everything.
Happ hit a three-run, seventh-inning homer off David Hernandez (5-1) and the Cubs got a much-needed 3-2 win Friday night that kept them 1 1/2 games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central Division.
Harvey outdueled Cole Hamels, allowing just four hits and striking out six while Hamels allowed fourth-inning home runs by Jose Peraza and Joey Votto over 6 2/3 innings.
“It was just about getting ahead,” Harvey said. “The big thing was being able to mix different pitches for a strike and really throw it whenever I wanted to.
“That was the first time in a long time that all four pitches were kind of doing exactly what I wanted to.”
Victor Caratini led off the Cubs' seventh with a single and David Bote reached on an error on third baseman Eugenio Suarez. After pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella hit into a forceout, Happ drove a 1-0 pitch into the bleachers in left-center for just his second homer in 22 games. The 24-year-old switch hitter is batting .186 over the span.
“It’s been a while since I’ve had one of those,” Happ said. “To get a hit in that situation coming off what we’ve had to do the last couple of weeks, to give us a chance to win a ballgame, it was great.”
With Pedro Strop sidelined by a hamstring injury, Cubs manager Joe Maddon gave the ball to Jorge De La Rosa for the ninth inning, and the 37-year-old De La Rosa pitched out of a jam for his first career save.
The Reds threatened when Curt Casali hit a one-out double and Billy Hamilton walked with two down. But Scott Schebler flied out to center.
It was the first save opportunity for Chicago since Strop strained his left hamstring trying to beat out a double-play grounder during Thursday’s 4-3 victory at Washington, shelving the key reliever for the rest of the regular season.
Strop had been subbing for closer Brandon Morrow, who is on the disabled list with a right arm injury.
After Dillon Maples (1-0) got the final out of the seventh, Jaime Garcia tossed a perfect eighth and De La Rosa closed it out in his 426th major league appearance.
Maddon called it an “unlikely bullpen.”
“The walk to Hamilton made it interesting, but (De La Rosa) had great composure,” he said. “First big league save, wow. Good for him.”
Ben Zobrist had three hits and Maples earned his first career win.
Hamels struck out seven to increase his career total to 2,396, matching Sandy Koufax for 48th on the all-time list. He is 4-0 in nine starts since he was acquired in a trade with Texas.
Reds: RHP Lucas Sims is sidelined with a strain on his right side. "He's got little something going on with his lat that he's not available to pitch right now," manager Jim Riggleman said.
Cubs: Morrow, on the DL with right biceps inflammation, is scheduled to throw a simulated game on Saturday. ... Maddon said OF Jason Heyward (right hamstring tightness) might return next week.
Reds LHP Cody Reed (0-2, 5.08 ERA) faces Cubs ace Jon Lester (15-6, 3.57 ERA) on Saturday. Lester lost his last start on Monday to Milwaukee, exiting after 5 2/3 innings with lower back tightness.