Coming into tonight's game against the Reds, Cubs hitters had hit 30 home runs off of Cincinnati pitching this season. One might be inclined to feel bad for them if it weren't for whining Brennamans and the fact that they similarly pummeled the Cubs a few seasons back when roles were reversed. Though the Cubs have earned a little breathing room during a short five-game winning streak, you'd like for them to take advantage of a team they've dominated over the past three seasons.
Jake Arrieta took the mound tonight looking to continue his recent success against yet another young Reds pitcher, Sal "Don't Call Me Corky" Romano. Both pitchers were pretty solid, though Arrieta struggled in the fifth and sixth innings. Though both had solid nights, this one came down to the bullpens, where the Cubs faltered late.
Let's get to it.
Arrieta looked like 2015 Jake in the first three innings, striking out six, and not allowing a single Red to reach base. He looked to have good, late movement on his fastball and good command. He was given a lead in the second when Ian Happ drove his 19th home run of the season to the right field bleachers. The University of Cincinnati alum was immediately mobbed for an interview by Tommy LaStella, who may potentially be preparing for his next career move when the Cubs sign Chris Coghlan for the stretch run (okay, this is a bad joke).
Jake's shot at a no-hitter ended in the fourth inning with one out, after a Zack Cozart smash got through Kris Bryant's glove and down the left field line. The play was ruled an error, and resulted in Cozart advancing to scoring position. Joey Votto followed with a base hit down the right field line. While Jason Heyward cut the ball off quickly and held Votto to a single, Cozart scored easily. The score was tied, 1-1. Arrieta got Adam Duvall and Ryan Gennett (I refuse to call him that other name) to line and fly out, respectively.
In the fifth, Arrieta would allow the first two batters to reach, but bore down to strike out Tucker Barnhart. He then got some luck, as the pitcher Romano fell victim to the fearless Anthony Rizzo, who pounced on an attempted sacrifice bunt and threw to third for the force. I love the aggressiveness of Rizzo on those plays, though there's part of me that just knows some day he'll get burned or injured on that "Butcher Boy," pull-the-bat-back-and-swing deals. Thank God, Orel Hershiser is retired and in his 90s (I think this is correct). At any rate, Arrieta struck out Billy Hamilton to end the threat, and the Cubs grabbed their bats.
After Kyle Schwarber just missed on a home run and flew out, Bryant doubled down the left field line. With two outs, Romano intentionally walked Happ to get to Javy Baez - so of course, Javy did Javy things, and lined a single to left to drive in Bryant to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead. We've gotten pretty spoiled by his play during Addison Russell's injury absence, and he is just oozing confidence right now. Heyward grounded out to end the inning.
Javy wasn't done making plays. Cozart led off the bottom of the sixth and singled to left. Votto then hit a shot to left that beat Kyle Schwarber, and bounced off the wall. Knowing that the Cubs would have to make a perfect relay, third base coach Billy Hatcher waved Cozart around third. Though he'd been beaten on the play, AND the ball having bounced past him, Schwarber got to the ball quickly and threw a rope to Baez, who quickly whipped it to catcher Rene Rivera to get Cozart trying to score. After getting Adam Duvall to fly out, Arrieta intentionally walked Gennett to get to Eugenio Suarez. Arrieta was unable to coax him into an out, and with the pitch count rising and the bases loaded, Joe Maddon called on Brian Duensing to get the final out. Four pitches later the Cubs were out of the inning with the lead intact, as Jesse Winker grounded into a force out.
Sal Romano pitched a scoreless top of the seventh for the Reds (with the benefit of an overturned safe-call at second base), and Carl Edwards Jr. returned the favor in the bottom. Michael Lorenzen struck out a side of Cubs in the top of the eighth...and then Pedro happened.
I like Pedro Strop. I love to hear the whiners complain about his hat. He's been as good in the bullpen since he joined the club in 2013 as anyone.
And he didn't have it tonight.
He got the first two men out, though he got some help on a nice diving play by Heyward on a rapidly sinking ball hit by Votto. Then Duvall singled to center. And Gennett doubled down the line. "We still have a great shot to get out of the inning," thought I, as Duvall was not waved home on the play. Suarez was walked intentionally to load the bases, and then Jose Peraza smoked a ground-rule double to center field to give the Reds the lead. With runners at second and third, Strop beat Rivera's five-hole for a wild pitch, allowing Suarez to run home, increasing the lead to 4-2.
The Cubs whimpered through the ninth inning, though Jon Jay briefly offered up a ray of hope...which was dashed when he was easily caught stealing with Alex Avila pinch-hitting. Raisel Iglesias struck out Avila to end it. On a side note, I will enjoy watching him close games for the Yankees when the Reds can no longer afford him.
Yuck. I hate losing to the Reds.
Hey, Looky Here!
Shout out to this guy, who shook the mothballs off this mid-90s beauty for tonight's game, and was seated behind every right-handed batter in the game. I've seen an awful lot of 2003 player gear (read: bandwagon) over the past few seasons, but it takes a REAL fan to wear a jersey so unpopular that it only lasted two seasons. Also, who wore it better: Him, or Yours Truly in '95?
(Image has been altered to protect my childrens' pride)
The Division Race and Tomorrow's Matchup
The Cubs got some more help from the Padres, who beat St. Louis 4-3. Meanwhile, the Brewers had the night off and gained a half-game in the standings. The Cubs' lead in the division over Milwaukee is now at 3, and 4.5 over the Cardinals.
The Cubs will move on to Philadelphia tomorrow where Jose Quintana will match up against "Distancing Myself from Subway Jared" Jerad Eickhoff.
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