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CIN@CHC: Mesoraco launches a grand slam in the 9th

CHICAGO -- Devin Mesoraco took a beating on Monday. He took a foul tip off the mask, was hit by a backswing, and was twice plunked by a pitch.

It was worth it.

With the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth, Mesoraco cranked a Hector Rondon pitch into the basket in left-center for his third career grand slam, lifting the Reds to a 6-1 victory at Wrigley Field. Mesoraco has now homered in four straight games, becoming the first Reds player to do so since Jay Bruce from June 19-22, 2013.

"I don't know what other people are saying about him. If they're not talking about it and seeing it, I think they're missing the boat on something, in many different ways," manager Bryan Price said. "If people aren't aware of Devin Mesoraco, I'm pretty sure that by the time we get into the late summer that they will be.

"That's one of the toughest kids I've ever been around."

Another blossoming Reds player, Billy Hamilton, broke a 1-1 tie earlier in the inning to help set up Mesoraco's blast.

Chris Heisey snapped an 0-for-16 skid with a bloop single to right, stole second, and scored on Hamilton's RBI single up the middle. Hamilton's grinding at-bat was talked about as much as Mesoraco's blast. He went ahead in the count, 2-0, took two borderline strikes low in the zone and fouled off a couple pitches before delivering the game-winning hit.

"It was a great at-bat," Hamilton said. "It was one of those where I knew I wanted Heisey to get into scoring position. I wanted him to steal. I don't know if he had the green light or not, but that was great, and I was gonna take it until he went, until he got into scoring position.

"It's just a grind. Their guy made some really good pitches. I had to battle through it, and it came out good for us."

After Hamilton's hit, Todd Frazier singled and Joey Votto walked to set up Mesoraco's dramatic blast.

"It's amazing. I knew something was going to happen," Hamilton said. "I didn't know if it was going to be a home run, but I felt like something good was going to happen. Devin's going great, best that I've seen him ever. First time in the big leagues, but I've seen him in the Minor Leagues before. He's just on fire right now. It's good for us to have him on our team."

"We tried to let [Rondon] work his way through it, and obviously, it didn't work out," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said.

The heroics of Hamilton and Mesoraco overshadowed Alfredo Simon, who delivered yet another strong outing. He allowed just one earned run in seven innings, his only blemish coming on Anthony Rizzo's game-tying home run in the sixth.

Simon lowered his ERA to 2.92, striking out five while walking one. This, from a pitcher who started the season as an injury fill-in for Mat Latos, and who is in his first season as a full-time starter.

"I'm fascinated by it as well," Price said. "Not that I don't think he has have the ability to do it, it's just this guy -- really from a guy that had 19 Major League starts before this season -- to do what he's done this year is spectacular, and he did it again tonight."

The Reds jumped on Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija in the first. Hamilton grounded one under the glove of second baseman Darwin Barney for a hustle double, and Frazier drove him home with an RBI triple two pitches later.

Simon worked out of a pair of significant jams -- in the third, when Darwin Barney led off with a double but was stranded, and the fourth, when the first two got on with hits and Simon got the next three.

Rizzo's home run was impressive -- he took a curveball well outside and drove it into the left-field bleachers -- but the night belonged to Mesoraco, who is putting together a career year. After missing more than two weeks due to injury from late April to mid-May, Mesoraco hit just .239/.286/.609 last month.

He credited some recent adjustments he made with the help of video and hitting coach Don Long for his current hot stretch. Mesoraco is 9-for-20 in his last six games, raising his average to .315 to go along with a 1.035 OPS.

"I felt good coming into this series, and you just try to ride them out as long as you can and hope they don't end," Mesoraco said. "Just keep going up there and trying to get a good pitch to hit and putting a good swing on it."

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