The Chicago Cubs jumped on pitcher Tony Cingrani immediately, making for a short night for the Cincinnati Reds starter and a long one for many of the 21,847 fans at Great American Ball Park.
The Cubs roughed up Reds relievers as well, tacking on six more runs against the bullpen in a 9-4 pummeling Wednesday night.
“We had great at-bats all night, and our pitching shut them down,” said Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who belted a two-run homer to go along with four walks. “
The loss kept Cincinnati from picking up a game in the standings on NL Central-leading Milwaukee, which begins a four-game series tonight at GABP with a 7.5-game lead.
The Cubs jumped on Cingrani for two runs in the top of the first on Rizzo’s fourth home run of the year. The Reds answered right back when Todd Frazier doubled home Joey Votto and Jay Bruce to tie it, and Brayan Pena gave them a 3-2 lead with a solo home run leading off the second, his first of the season.
But the pop in the Reds’ bats seemed to leave when Cingrani did after just four innings.
“He wasn’t real sharp and his velocity started to back down in that (fourth) inning,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “He wanted to go back out there and pitch. I felt it was the right decision to get him out of there. It just didn’t seem like it was working for him tonight.”
After setting an MLB record by allowing five or fewer hits in the first 22 starts of his career, Cingrani has allowed six in each of his last two starts.
In the previous one he lasted six innings and earned the win in a 2-1 victory against Pittsburgh, but Wednesday night equaled his shortest outing of the season as his ERA swelled from 2.86 to 3.34.
Reliever Nick Christiani (0-1) allowed two runs on two hits and three walks to take the loss.
Chicago starter Edwin Jackson evened his record at 2-2 despite allowing four runs on five hits in 5.2 innings as the Reds offense only got two runners past first base over the final six innings.
Still it was a one-run game entering the ninth inning. But former Cubs reliever Sean Marshall got beat around by his former club, surrendering four runs on four hits and a walk.
On the positive side, a pair of struggling Reds came up with three of the team’s seven hits. Brandon Phillips, who was 7 for his last 42, had an RBI single to score Billy Hamilton in the fifth, cutting the Cubs’ lead to 5-4. And Zack Cozart, who entered the game hitting .165, went 2 for 4 with a double.
“We were very happy to see that,” Price said. “Hopefully he knows we all believe in him and know what he’s capable of doing and exceeding what he’s capable of doing. It’s certainly something we knew would show up, and now we’re starting to get some consistent at-bats from him.”
But it wasn’t nearly enough against a Cubs offense that collected 13 hits on the way to equaling their season-high run output.
Starling Castro and Wellington Castillo each had three hits, and Nate Schierholtz went 1 for 4 with three RBIs as the Cubs salvaged a split in the series that was shortened to two games when Monday night’s contest was rained out.