The Cubs entered the 9th inning Friday night with a one-run lead and a chance for a doubleheader sweep of the Reds. Unfortunately, several missed scoring opportunities came back to haunt Chicago and the home team rallied to hand them a painful walk-off loss.
Reds rookie starter Lyon Richardson walked the bases loaded with one out in the top of the 1st inning but two consecutive strikeouts stranded the runners. The Cubs went with a bullpen game, using José Cuas as the opener, and held the Reds scoreless through three.
Cody Bellinger took Richardson deep in the top of the 3rd to give the North Siders a 1-0 advantage, but the Reds immediately responded with an RBI double by TJ Friedl off of Drew Smyly in the bottom of the frame.
Belli homers in back-to-back games! 💣 pic.twitter.com/WEPF1V5Z6e
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 1, 2023
Nico Hoerner walked, stole second, and came in to score when Ian Happ chopped a single up the middle against lefty Sam Moll in the 5th inning. Hayden Wesneski came on in relief and pitched brilliantly, preserving the 2-1 edge through the 7th.
The Cubs were still clinging to their advantage into the bottom of the 9th when closer Adbert Alzolay had a rare off night. Journeyman outfielder, and former Cub, Nick Martini blasted a game-tying solo home run to right to start the rally.
Christian Encarnacion-Strand then singled and advanced to third on a stolen base with a throwing error by catcher Yan Gomes. That set the stage for another Cincinnati rookie, Noelvi Marte, to bang the game-winning base hit right up the middle. (Box score)
Seiya Suzuki doubled with nobody out to open the top of the 9th inning. Suzuki eventually made it to third but Chicago was unable to get him home and build on their lead.
Why the Cubs Lost
They tried to win another tense, low-scoring affair that put tons of pressure on the back end of the bullpen. The relief corps wasn’t up to the task, but this defeat lies squarely on the offense.
Stats That Matter
- Very promising outing for Wesneski, who got his fastball up to 99 mph and dominated: 3.1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 6 K, and 1 BB.
- Bellinger was the first Cubs hitter to homer in both ends of a doubleheader since Happ did it in Cincinnati in 2018.
- Chicago hitters drew six walks but only one of them scored Friday.
The Cubs have been living dangerously lately by clinging to narrow leads. It’s very good they are winning most of them but it is impossible to win every close contest. They need a few more results like game one with comfortable margins to keep the bullpen from wearing down as the season winds down. Some hitters outside of Bellinger and Happ need to help a bit the rest of this weekend.