These three games do little to change the trajectory of the 2018 campaign, but they certainly aren't easy or fun to watch. This time it was a pitcher hitting a grand slam that would be the dagger for a suddenly hot Reds team. The bullpen day for the Cubs involved a guy coming back from bereavement list getting lit up, another guy get injured, and Chris Gimenez's first career walk as a pitcher.
Luke Farrell made the emergency start and it wasn't pretty. He walked leadoff hitter Alex Blandino to start the game, and Tucker Barnhart made it 2-0 Reds just two plate appearances into the game. Farrell retired six of the next seven batters after the Barnhart blast to keep the game at the score through 2 innings.
Joe Maddon attempted to try to shake things up with not even a B lineup. This was a C lineup with the slumping Kris Bryant sitting down, as in lets see what happens with this group. It wasn't much different than what had happened with the traditional lineups. Anthony DeSclafani was sharp retiring the first four batters he faced. Willson Contreras launched a second inning solo shot to halve the Reds lead. DeSclafani scattered two walks and another hit to keep the Cubs to 1 run through 5 innings.
The Reds blew the game open in the third inning. Farrell retired the first two batters in the frame, but a two out walk to Joey Votto ended his afternoon. Brian Duensing was back to help the recently beleaguered Cubs bullpen. It was a rude greeting as Scooter Gennett doubled to score Votto. Eugenio Suarez singled to drive in Gennett. Duensing walked Jesse Winker, and Adam Duvall hit a grounder that Duensing couldn't handle to load the bases. Duensing fell behind to the pitcher 3-0, and grooved three straight fastballs. DeSclafani watched the first two for called strikes. He then turned on third one for the first grandslam hit by a Reds pitcher since 1959.
Duensing retired Billy Hamilton to end the third and then pitched a clean fourth inning. Rob Zastryzny kept the Reds off the board in the fifth inning. The Cubs got a single tally back with Ben Zobrist's fifth home run in the sixth inning against DeSclafani, but they could muster no further damage against the Reds hurlers of Michael Lorenzen, Amir Garrett and Dylan Floro to close out an easy, stress-free win for the Reds.
Zastryzny was the other big story of the game as he pitched into the sixth inning, but had to leave the game with an apparent injury. Hopefully it isn't something serious, but it is probably likely that he is headed to the DL to bring back Justin Hancock or another reliever back to Chicago. The Cubs need some help.
Anthony Bass and Steve Cishek got the Cubs into the eighth inning. Joe Maddon tried to save some bullets by having Chris Gimenez pitch the eighth inning. He threw batting practice as Blandino singled and Gimenez became yet another Cubs pitcher to walk Billy Hamilton. Gimenez got the next two batters including reaching back to strike out his counterpart Tucker Barnhart on a mid 80s fastball. Joey Votto wasn't having any of the fun as he pulled a three run home run to end the scoring on the afternoon.
Thankfully the Cards finally won again, and the Cubs remain just two back despite the three game skid.
Breathe because these aren't the same Reds
It is frustrating watching the Cubs scuffle as hard as they have this week. However, it is most likely just the normal ebbs and flow of a long baseball season. Many people will probably feel like there is an extra level of annoyance falling three straight to the cellar dwelling Reds, but these aren't the same Reds that have lived at the bottom of the division since the Cubs ascendency. Jim Riggleman has this team with some nice young pieces like Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker playing really well. The Reds are 8-2 in their last ten games, and since their horrific start 3-18 start to the year the Reds have actually been 28-27 since that point. The Cubs ran into a hot team and played some really bad baseball for a variety of factors. There aren't larger conclusions really to be drawn at this point.
There wasn't much to write about for the Cubs side. They didn't have many chances in this game, and when Brian Duensing continued his slide back into the pitcher he was prior to signing with the Cubs it was all but over. Willson Contreras hitting a home run was a nice sign. The Cubs heart of the order has not been producing as much as is expected and in particular have not delivered the power expected from their dangerous bats. Contreras's blast was just his fifth home run by nearly the end of June. Tommy La Stella got a rare start at third base, and hit the ball hard but was not rewarded in the leadoff spot. He did make a nice defensive play early in the game when it looked like it might be a game.
This was about all I could muster when the ball left the yard off of DeSclafani's bat.