The Cubs winning streak is over and they are back in a tie for the final playoff spot. The Cardinals lost so that means it is a mere 2 games to not having to play in a do or die game again. But the Yelich-less Brewers continue to beat bad teams. It means that the Cubs are going to have to get back in the win column quickly.
The old saying about top pitchers was that you needed to get them early before they settled in. Tonight's performance by Yu Darvish felt very much like that with the first five Reds hitters jumping all over Yu Darvish. Josh VanMeter bounced a grounder up the middle to start the game. He scored on Joey Votto's double. Darvish struck out Eugenio Suarez, but it was 3-0 after Aristides Aquino hit his bajillionth home run against the Cubs since August. Tucker Barnhart followed that up with a single, but Darvish locked in to strike out ten of the next eleven batters he faced. The Reds managed to put just one ball in play after the Barnhart single until the fifth inning.
The hot Cubs lineup was able to answer in the bottom half of the first inning against Sonny Gray. Nicholas Castellanos reached on a one out walk. Kris Bryant struck out swinging for the second out, but Nicky 2bags was able to score easily on Kyle Schwarber's two out double. Willson Contreras grounded out to end the threat.
Victor Caratini led off the second with a walk. Gray retired Jason Heyward and Nico Hoerner before Caratini was walked into scoring position, but Yu Darvish struck out to end the frame. Ben Zobrist was plunked to start the third, but was exchanged for Nicholas Castellanos on a fielder's choice. Kyle Schwarber tripled to drive in the Cubs second run. Gray then caught Contreras looking to end the third. Nico Hoerner managed a two out single in the fourth, but that was all the Cubs could manage against Sonny Gray
And of course it would be Sonny Gray that broke up Darvish's retired batters streak with one out in the fifth inning. Darvish battled Joey Votto with two outs, but eventually walked him for his only base on balls for the evening. Suarez smacked a ball back up the middle to score Gray as the Reds managed a two out rally. The 4-2 score held for two more innings as neither team could solve the opposing starter.
The next base runner came with a two out pinch hit walk from Tony Kemp in the bottom of the seventh. Ben Zobrist then smacked a single into left field to give the Cubs their first true scoring chance since the third inning and chase Gray from the game just short of seven complete innings. Hard throwing Michael Lorenzen struck out Castellanos to end the threat.
Danny Hultzen was summoned to face Joey Votto and the LOOGY failed to LOOG. Instead the patient Red hitter drew a base on ball to start the eighth. Steve Cishek then induced a groundball off the bat of Eugenio Suarez but Hoerner was only able to make a sliding stop. Hoerner attempted a throw that was thankfully as weak as it was off line. Aquino bounced the ball to Bryant who attempted to start a double play, but Aquino easily beat the throw to first. Tucker Barnhart hit a ball right to Ben Zobrist who fired home to get Votto at the plate. Phillip Ervin grounded out to keep the score at 4-2.
Michael Lorenzen surrendered a one out infield single to Kyle Schwarber, but the Cubs offense remained silent from the big lefty slugger. Brad Wieck pitched a clean ninth inning to give the Cubs hitters one more chance. Raisel Iglesias pitched a clean ninth inning to deny the Cubs even a tease rally.
Yu Darvish struck out 13 batters. Sonny Gray struck out nine batters. The Cubs and Reds combined for 28 strikeouts on the night which made most of the night feel like we were watching this. Ian Happ taking a called third strike was the only way it could end.