McCoy: Balky bullpen, missed opportunites doom Reds vs. Cubs

Chicago scores 6-5 walk-off win

A familiar script, like a bunch of summer re-runs unfolded for the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night in Wrigley Field.

The bullpen. Again.

Given a two-run lead in the fifth inning, the bullpen once again was unable to hold the line.

And it ended dramatically and acrimoniously, a walk-off bases loaded pinch-hit single by Javier Baez in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Cubs a 6-5 victory.

The hit came on the first pitch delivered by Amir Garrett. Baez and Garrett have a three-year history of much dislike. And after the hit, Baez tossed his bat in the direction of Garrett and the umpires had to escort Garrett off the field.

The Cubs loaded the bases without a hit when Heath Hembree issued two walks and hit a batter. That’s when manager David Bell called upon Garrett.

About the post-game flare-up, Bell said, “Just two highly, highly competitive guys, both great baseball players. There are a lot of emotions in this game, and it might just as simple as that.”

The offense must accept huge scoops of blame, too. The Reds were 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10.

They had the bases loaded with no outs three times and didn’t get a hit. They scored on a sacrifice fly, a bases loaded walk and a fielder’s choice.

They loaded the bases with no outs in eighth and didn’t score.

And they had two on with no outs in the ninth against premier closer Craig Kimbrel and he struck out the side — Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez and Shogo Akiyama.

“You want to make the most of every opportunity, especially with Craig Kimbrel on the mound,” said Bell. “We had him up against the wall with runners in scoring position and he made great pitches. He is one of the best.”

Votto drove in three runs with a home run, bases-loaded walk and a sacrifice fly, but it wasn’t enough.

“That’s the way it works sometimes,” he said. “The opposition gets out of some tough situations by making good pitches and finishes innings. That happened to us tonight.

“I’m disappointed we lost such a close game, what felt like our game to win,” he added. “What are we, seven games back? That’s a number of games and we have to play really good ball and accumulate a lot of wins.”

If a pre-game commercial was put together before this game, it would read: “Come out to Wrigley to see two of the best pitchers in baseball.”

It would be false advertising.

It was Cincinnati’s Wade Miley, 8-4 with a 2.72 earned run average, against Chicago’s Kyle Hendricks, 12-4 with a 10-0 record in his previous 13 starts.

Both pitchers were banged all over Wrigley Field and both survived just 4 1/3 innings.

Miley’s line: 4 1/3 innings, three runs, seven hits, five walks, one home run.

Hendricks’ line: 4 1/3 innings, five runs, nine hits, two walks, two home runs.

Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo began the assault on Miley in the first inning with a two-run home run. They scored another run in the third on a two-out single by David Bote.

Votto began the assault on Hendricks in the second with a solo home run, his seventh in his last 24 games.

The Reds scored one in the third on Votto’s sacrifice fly and one in the fourth on Kyle Farmer’s home run.

They added two in the fifth, the first on a bases loaded walk to Votto for his third RBI of the game. The bases loaded walk was the 18th of Votto’s career, a franchise record. Another run scored on Tyler Naquin’s fielder’s choice ground ball.

So it was Cincinnati 5, Chicago 3 when the two star pitchers departed. It became a bullpen battle and the Cubs were better armed and took the first game of the three-game series.

The Cubs crept within one in the seventh against Brad Brach on a bloop single to center by Nico Hoerner.

And the Cubs tied it, 5-5, in the eighth against Josh Osich when leadoff hitter Willson Contreras launched a long home run to left center, setting it up for the Garrett-Baez confrontation, won handily by Baez.

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