The Wrigley Field beatdown by the Cincinnati Reds continued Wednesday afternoon, but it took another superlative effort by pitcher Mike Leake to get it done, the Reds’ 12th straight victory at the corner of Addison & Sheffield on Chicago’s eclectic north side.
Leake was matched against former teammate Travis Wood and it took everything he had to best his buddy, 2-1.
Leake went eight innings and gave up one run and three hits — and for a little guy he became stronger and stronger as the innings rolled by.
He struck out only one through six innings, then recorded five straight strikeouts before retiring the last hitter he faced, David DeJesus on a line drive to left to end the eighth.
The Cubs didn’t get a hit with runners in scoring position because they had no runners in scoring position the entire game.
The only run off Leake was a one-out home run by Nate Schierholz in the second inning. Leake retired 15 of the last 16 batters he faced.
Wood has to wonder just what he has to do to win games for the Cubs, who take bats to home plate for no apparent reason.
He held the Reds hitless for 4 2/3 innings and the first hit he gave up was an infield hit to deep short by Cesar Izturis with two outs in the fifth inning.
The Reds finally tied it, 1-1, in the sixth inning, in part due to manager Dusty Baker’s different-look lineup.
Because Shin-Soo Choo was hitting .157 against left-handed pitchers this season, Baker dropped him out of the leadoff spot for the first time, placing him second in the order against the left-handed Wood.
It paid handsomely in the sixth when Choo banged a one-out double off the Under Armor sign on the left-center wall. Wood then retired Joey (0 for 4) Votto on a meek fly to left.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum had a decision to make. Should he walk the right-handed Brandon Phillips and take his chances with Wood against left-handed Jay Bruce?
He selected his poison — pitch to Phillips. And Wood went right after him, pounding the strike zone until the count was 2-and-2.
Against Phillips, two strikes is The Danger Zone. Phillips leads the National League in hitting with two strikes, .336. And, of course, he banged the 2-and-2 pitch to left-center to score Choo from second and tie the game, 1-1.
That lasted only until the Reds batted in the seventh. The first batter, Todd Frazier drove a low line drive against a stiff wind into the left-field bleachers — his second home run in two days after going since April (131 at bats) without a home run.
And that was that. After scoring 12 runs on 16 hits Tuesday, the Reds won this one with two runs and six hits.
All that was left was for Aroldis Chapman to walk to the mound and totally intimidate the helpless Cubs.
He struck out pinch-hitter Scott Hairston with a 100-miles-an-hour fastball. He struck out Anthony Rizzo on three pitches, the last one in the dirt. Pinch-hitter Alfonso Soriano took no chances and swung at the first pitch and grounded out to second. It was Chapman’s 17th save in 19 opportunities.
It was Soriano who said when the Cubs were in Cincinnati earlier this year, “That’s a guy you don’t want to face. It is unfair. Really unfair.”
The Reds go after a four-game sweep Thursday afternoon, a chance for their 13th straight win in Wrigley. And they’ve won 19 of their last 22 overall against the Cubs.
Asked to do the job is Mat Latos, unbeaten this season. Don’t be surprised if several Cubs come down with flu-like symptoms or migraine headaches before first pitch.