CINCINNATI (Ticker) --
emphatically answered the
for 10th place on the all-time home run list and Estes tossed a four-hitter as the Cubs shut out the
for the second straight night, 8-0.
The Cubs, who had not tossed back-to-back shutouts since May 24-25, 2001, maintained their one-game lead over the Astros atop the National League Central Division. On Tuesday,
gave up just one infield hit in seven innings and combined with two relievers on a two-hitter in a 6-0 triumph.
"It makes me feel great, especially watching Houston (before the game)," Cubs manager
said. "We're one step closer to the finish line."
"We needed to stay a step ahead of the Astros," Estes said. "We control our own destiny. If we win out, we're in."
Making his first start since September 4, Estes (8-11) struck out five and walked two for his first win since July 27 at Houston and first complete game since a one-hitter in a 1-0 win for the
New York Mets
vs. Milwaukee on April 26, 2002. It was his eighth career shutout.
"I was aggressive," said Estes, who signed with the Cubs in the offseason after ending last campaign with Cincinnati. "I was throwing strikes. I was throwing my curveball early in the game for strikes. When we got some runs early, most people wait for me to get the curve in the strike zone, then I was able to throw it out of the strike zone and they were swinging."
"He saved our bullpen," said Baker, who elected to start Estes over the struggling and inexperienced
. "Our bullpen's strong now with four games to go."
rapped a three-run double and
a two-run double to cap a six-run third inning for the Cubs, who posted their 17th win in 23 games and reduced their magic number to clinch the division to four. Houston had pulled within one-half game with a 2-1 triumph over the
San Francisco Giants
Chicago took the lead for good against
(0-2) in the second when
with single following a two-out fielding error by Reds third baseman
on a ball hit by Estes.
Sosa began the next frame by belting a 2-1 offering over the wall in left field. It was his 37th homer of the season and 536th career, tying him with Mantle.
is next on the list, with 548.
"We have to win to play in October but I'm fortunate and blessed to be tied with
," Sosa said. "But I have a mission to complete."
After another fielding error Reds second baseman D'Angelo Jimenez, the Cubs loaded the bases with one out and Bako cleared them with a double to center field. Hall was lifted after issuing singles to Estes and Lofton, and Grudzielanek greeted
with a double to right-center to make it 7-0.
Belisle nearly hit Sosa in the head before striking him out to end the inning. Sosa had been beaned by Pittsburgh's
earlier in the season.
Hall, who was making his sixth major league appearance and fifth start, was tagged for seven runs - three earned - and six hits in 2 2/3 innings.
"I think Chicago (will win the division) with their pitching," said Reds first baseman
, who went 0-for-4. "When they're on, they are probably the best rotation in the game. You have (Carlos) Zambrano, who's a No. 1 (starter), (Mark) Prior a No. 1 and (Matt) Clement, who could be a No. 1 for some teams. You saw Wood last night and Estes tonight and Zambrano is no walk in the park."