The Cubs bullpen was supposed to be the weak link, and it probably is with roughly a bajillion relievers on the IL. The hope was that the Cubs lineup could finally produce like the pedigrees of their many talented young hitters suggests it should. The formula was to ride the starting staff and that offensive lineup to cover the weak link of the bullpen.
Alex Wood and Cole Hamels played anything you can do, I can do worse to start the game. Neither starter lasted past the third inning. Most surprising was Cole Hamels' pitching wasn't as pretty as his physical appearance, which is extremely rare both as a Cub and against the Reds. Thankfully Nick Castellanos is so hot right now. The rains fell in the middle innings but that didn't stop the game. Nor could it stop the Cubs from earning a much needed road win. Tyler Chatwood, Duane Underwood Jr., and Kyle Ryan flipped the script pitching six scoreless frames to close out the win.
Jason Heyward started the game with a sight that has thankfully become a lot less familiar recently by bouncing out to second. Nick Castellanos drove a ball into right center that fell in between the center fielder and right fielder. Castellanos breaking out of the box attempted to stretch into a double, but a strike thrown by big right fielder Aristides Aquino caught Castellanos sliding for the second out. Kris Bryant drew a base on ball to keep the inning alive which loomed large when Anthony Rizzo snuck a ball past Joey Votto down the line that bounced around in the corner. Bryant scored without a throw when Aquino couldn't handle it in the corner. Javier Báez struck out to end the inning.
Cole Hamels made quick work of the first two Reds batters, but Eugenio Suárez continued to terrorize Cubs pitching with a double. Aquino made it count by doubling to tie the game. José Iglesias hit the ball hard but Ian Happ grabbed it for the final out.
Alex Wood yielded a two out single to Jonathan Lucroy in the second, but kept the game level heading into the bottom of the frame. Phillip Ervin came within a foot or two of untying the game to start the second, but had to settle for a double. José Peraza flew out to left field for the first out. Kyle Farmer hit a ball that bounced off the third base bag and away from Kris Bryant to reach safely while advancing Ervin to third. Alex Wood attempted the safety squeeze but Hamels pounced on the bunt to flip it home in time to get Ervin. Nick Senzel bounced into an inning ending fielder's choice.
Jason Heyward bounced out to the right side to start the third inning. Castellanos then decided it was smarter to hit the ball out of the ballpark. Kris Bryant reached on Peraza's error on the hard hit ball at the second baseman. Anthony Rizzo bounced a single through the right side to move Bryant to third. Javy doubled into left to score Bryant. After Albert Almora Jr. struck out, Ian Happ drove in a pair with a single into left. Lucroy hit the ball hard, but it stayed in the park for the final out, ending the top half of the third with the Cubs ahead 5-1.
That lead felt comfortable until Aquino absolutely obliterated a Cole Hamels one out pitch. The fact that this came after Hamels lost Suárez on pitches meant that the lead had been halved. Iglesias kept the Reds offense rolling with a single, but Ervin flew out for the second out. Peraza rolled a grounder back up the middle to put runners on the corners. The eight hitter Kyle Farmer bounced a ball through the right side to cut the Cubs lead down to 5-4, and the Reds elected to pinch hit Jesse Winker in the third. Hamels lost Winker on a full count pitch that wasn't anywhere close to load the bases. Senzel hit Lucroy's glove on the 3-1 pitch to tie the game. Hamels threw a huge 3-2 fastball for a called strikeout on Joey Votto to end the inning still level at five.
New Red Kevin Gausman took over in the fourth and appeared to restore sanity to the game with two quick outs. Nick Castellanos wasn't going to allow the first 1-2-3 inning to happen just yet and found the right field bleachers this time to put the Cubs back ahead. Bryant reached base for the third time before Gausman retired Rizzo to end the inning. Tyler Chatwood pitched the first clean inning of the game, and if you predicted that ahead of 6:15 then you are a witch.
Javy led off the fifth with a single, but Gausman retired the next two batters. Ian Happ was on first base when Jonathan Lucroy floated a ball into shallow left due to a fielder's choice. Happ running on contact with two outs scored the seventh Cubs run easily. Chatwood grounded out to finish the top half of the frame. Chatwood's streak of Reds retired was snapped instantly with Ervin's single to start the bottom half. Ervin advanced to second when Chatwood struck Kyle Farmer with a pitch. Pinch hitter Josh VanMeter hit into a fielder's choice when Javy wisely did not attempt a throw with a wet baseball. Chatwood struck out Senzel to keep the score at 7-5.
Lucas Sims pitched a scoreless sixth inning working around a hit by pitch and base on ball. Chatwood created stress right to start the bottom half by walking Joey Votto. A wild pitch allowed Votto to advance to second before catching Suárez looking for the first out. Chatwood figured out that you don't have to throw Aquino a strike as the big right fielder swung over a 3-2 pitch way outside. There wasn't a single pitch in the zone for the key second out. Chatwood continued to be effectively wild striking out Iglesias to end the inning.
David Hernandez pitched the seventh and the Cubs extended their lead by two just two batters into the frame. Ian Happ hit a broken bat blast with Almora along for the ride. Hernandez issued two walks and both came to score as Peraza attempted to field a bouncer off of Kris Bryant's bat barehanded. Rizzo was retired but the damage was done as the Cubs extended their lead to 11-5.
Duane Underwood Jr. took over and Philip Ervin briefly interrupted his ascendancy by doubling to start the bottom of the seventh. Underwood recovered quickly retiring the next two batters with the second another strikeout. Maddon elected to double switch the young righty for Kyle Ryan to get the final out. Ryan was helped out by a nice catch from Almora to end the inning.
Reds manager David Bell waved the white flag by allowing Hernandez to go back out there in the eighth. Lucroy made Bell pay with a two out run scoring single to extend the Cubs lead to seven runs. After David Bote followed that up with a bloop single it was catcher/second baseman Kyle Farmer's turn to pitch. Farmer retired Heyward without a pitch recorded by the in-game pitch f/x. Ryan faced the minimum in the eighth inning inducing yet another groundball double play.
Kyle Farmer pitched the ninth inning, and nearly had the Reds first clean inning. But Victor Caratini dumped a single into shallow left field to keep the inning alive. Javy decided to bat left handed against Farmer and swung for the moon on the first pitch. It ended up a can of corn for the center fielder to end the inning. Ryan pitched another low stress frame to close it out.
Jonathan Lucroy had a nice day. Two catcher's interference calls were the only real blemish in his Cubs debut. It might just be a single game, but I am going to take credit for it with my Baseball Costanza powers. Earlier this afternoon I wrote how I wasn't a fan of the move, and hopefully he can keep doing this: