After winning two of three games against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a brief home stand, the Cubs were back on the road Thursday night to take on the Cincinnati Reds.
Chicago got on the board first in this one. Kris Bryant was hit by a pitch with one out in the top of the 3rd and advanced to second on an infield single by Jason Heyward. That brought the red-hot Javy Baez to the plate and he promptly smoked a 2-1 pitch from Matt Harvey into the corner in right to knock in two runs, giving the Cubs an early 2-0 lead.
The score remained the same until the bottom of the 6th. Two walks and an infield single loaded the bases for Eugenio Suarez with two outs in the inning. After falling behind in the count 0-2, Suarez worked a walk to bring in Cincinnati’s first run of the game to make it 2-1 and bring an end to Kyle Hendricks’ night.
Joe Maddon then turned to Randy Rosario, but the lefty was unable to extinguish the fire, as he served up a grand slam to Jesse Winker to give the Reds a 5-2 lead. Three consecutive singles brought home another run to make it 6-2 before the Cubs were finally able to get the third out to end the inning. That would prove to be the last time either team scored, as the Reds went on to win the series opener (Box score).
Why the Cubs Lost
A disastrous bottom of the 6th did the Cubs in. Hendricks and Rosario had trouble recording the final out of the frame, turning what had been a Cubs lead into a four-run hole. Despite opportunities to get back into the game, the offense was unable to claw any closer.
Hendricks didn’t have the greatest command Thursday night but he was still able keep the Reds off balance until the bottom of the sixth.
Pinch hitter Billy Hamilton walked on four pitches to lead off the inning and later stole second, putting a runner in scoring position for the top of the Cincinnati lineup. Hendricks was able to coax a strikeout and line out, however, and appeared on the verge of getting out of the inning unscathed. That’s when things unraveled.
The next seven Reds hitters reached base (walk, infield single, walk, grand slam, single, single, single), turning a 2-0 Cubs lead into a 6-2 deficit.
Stats That Matter
- Rosario had been outstanding during his tenure with the Cubs this season, posting a 3-0 record with a 0.60 ERA in 15 innings. While the stats were great on the surface, the underlying numbers said he was due for an outing like this. Despite the sparkling ERA, he carried a 3.36 FIP with a low strikeout rate (6.00 K/9), high walk rate (4.80 BB/9) and less than ideal batted-ball rates (13.2 percent soft contact, 42.1 percent hard contact).
- After a prolonged cold stretch at the plate, Baez is heating up once again. El Mago had hit .417/.517/.625 over his previous 10 games heading into Thursday’s contest and continued the hot streak with a double and walk against the Reds.
- Speaking of hot hitters, Heyward continued his torrid stretch at the plate with three singles and a double on Thursday, raising his season line to .283/.345/.429 with a wRC+ of 109.
The offense had several chances to add on against a shaky Cincinnati pitching staff but failed to do so, while the pitching was done in by one (really) bad inning.
The Cubs will hand the ball to José Quintana (6-5, 4.06 ERA) in game two Friday night as they look to bounce back and get back in the win column. The Reds will counter with right-hander Luis Castillo (4-8, 5.77 ERA) with first pitch set for 6:10 p.m. CT on WGN.