The Chicago Cubs were 11 straight games without a win before taking on the Cincinnati Reds this week, and they are leaving town on a winning streak.
It was a dud from a Reds team in the middle of a playoff race that ended their streak of three games in a 7-1 loss at Great American Ball Park on Wednesday. It was the Cubs’ third win in August after trading nine of their best players before last month’s trading deadline.
“We should have won this series,” said Reds starter Tyler Mahle. “It’s hard to lose a series right now. It really sucks to put ourselves in that position. That’s all.”
Cubs righty Adrian Sampson, who made his first start in the Big League since August 3, 2019, kept the Reds on a run in four innings on Wednesday. Outfielder Michael Hermosillo scored a double home run against Mahle in the second inning, his second homer of his career and his first since September 24, 2018.
It was the first time since the All-Star hiatus that the Cubs won a series against a team alongside the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“It’s part of the game, man,” said Tyler Naquin, who scored two of the Reds’ five goals. “They got a lot of hits and strung them together. They got hits when they counted. We’re a dangerous line-up too. It’s just one of those days.”
The Reds will complete their seven-game home stand with a four-game series against the Miami Marlins, the bottom-ranked team in the National League East. The Marlins swept the Cubs last weekend but have a road record of 21-40.
Mahle started Wednesday with a 2.40 ERA in his last five starts, but he had the Reds in a five-run hole at the top of the second inning. Unable to throw bats away, he gave Hermosillos Homer and an RBI single to Rafael Ortega in two-strike counts.
“I just came out flat and the stuff just ran up,” said Mahle. “What I puked up there, I wouldn’t beat anyone with those pitches, let alone get the boys out. The stuff just wasn’t sharp for the first couple of innings.”
Mahle helped the bullpen by completing five innings and stranding two runners in the third inning, but it was a disappointing start from a pitcher who threw seven shutout frames in his final outing. He has a 5.82 ERA on 12 starts at GABP this season and 1.86 ERA on 13 road starts, which he thinks is more of a coincidence than anything else.
The Reds were four runs back when the Reds turned to the bullpen in the sixth inning – not an insurmountable number at GABP – but the offense was run with one run for the second day in a row.
“We just weren’t able to get any hits,” said Bell. “I’m looking at what (Sampson) did against us. When a pitcher can get involved, hold the clubs honest and he has moves like that, I think that was really the key for him.”
Sampson, who pitched in South Korea last year, was called up from the Triple-A after an injury to rookie Adbert Alzolay. He allowed five hits and zero walks over four innings.
Tyler Naquin hammered a solo homer into midfield in the lower part of the second inning, setting a career high for Homer (15) in one season.
“I plan to score a lot more but 15 is cool,” said Naquin, who has struck 13 in his last eight games, which could be an important development if the top of the line-up get back in shape.
Naquin’s Homer was the extent of the Reds’ damage against Sampson. Jose Barrero and Tucker Barnhart hit consecutive singles after Naquin’s Homer, but Mahle chose an outfield player to end the inning.
In the third inning, Joey Votto hit a one-out double that hit the midfield seats. He misinterpreted a softline drive in Nick Castellanos’ infield and was doubled up from second base for an unassisted double play to end the inning.
The Reds weren’t hit by the Cubs bullpen until Barrero scored a two-out double in the ninth inning.
“I’m separating these two (losses), two completely different games,” said Bell. “(Kyle) Hendricks was tough on us. (Sampson) played a good game against us today. He used his fastball inside, had movement inside. We just couldn’t score. We couldn’t. He did a really good job made against the top of our order. That was really the story of the game. “
It was the first time the Reds have lost consecutive home games since they were swept off the All-Star hiatus by the Milwaukee Brewers in their first series and lost an extra inning game to the New York Mets on July 16. 19th
With 40 games remaining in the season, the Reds’ best way into the postseason is to pursue the San Diego Padres in the wild card race. The Reds have a softer schedule than the Padres, but it’s up to them to take advantage of it.