McCoy: Struggles continue for Reds in loss to Cubs

Cincinnati Reds' Nick Castellanos (2) scores past Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Codi Heuer, left, on a wild pitch during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Monday, Sept. 6, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
Caption
Cincinnati Reds' Nick Castellanos (2) scores past Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Codi Heuer, left, on a wild pitch during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Monday, Sept. 6, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

Credit: Matt Marton

Credit: Matt Marton

Cincinnati has lost 9 of its last 13 games

As the Cincinnati Reds discovered Monday afternoon in Wrigley Field, now is not the time to play the Chicago Cubs.

When the Cubs traded most of their able-bodied players at the trade deadline, they lost 13 of their next 15 games that included a 12-game losing streak.

The shock and awe has subsided and a roster of young, unheralded and mostly unknown players, with nothing to lose, is playing without pressure, having fun … and winning.

The Cubs have won seven straight and the Reds were their seventh victim Monday, 4-3.

Some bad baserunning mid-game by Eugenio Suarez and a run given up by relief pitcher Michael Lorenzen in the eighth inning was the difference.

While the Cubs are playing loose, the Reds are tighter than a snare drum and have lost seven of their last nine and 9 of 13.

The loss Monday put them one full game behind idle San Diego in the wild card race. And the Philadelphia Phillies ravaged Milwaukee, 12-0, to pull within a game of the Reds.

Lorenzen entered the game in the eighth with the score tied, 3-3. Pinch-hitter Alfonso Rivas battled Lorenzen with a long at bat singled to right field.

He took second on a wild pitch and scored on a sharp single by rookie Frank Schwindel … and that was that.

“Our players are doing everything they possibly can to get back to playing the way they are capable of playing,” said manager David Bell, ever the optimist.

“We’ve played really well to get to this point of the season. There is another level of baseball we’re capable of playing and that’s why we are in this position.

“There is never, ever a question about the players on this team and that’s where the focus is,” he added. “Of course there is going to be frustration, but we have to channel it into continuing to work.”

Much has been said about how easy the Reds’ schedule is down the stretch, supposedly the second easiest behind the Philadelphia Phillies. But the Reds have lost four straight series, including series defeats to Miami and Detroit, below .500 teams.

Bell does not like to hear that talk.

“We talk about a weak schedule and I think that’s disrespectful to the other teams we’re playing,” he said. “It is also disrespectful to us because of where we’re going to end up. We will have had to beat every team and we’ve beaten a lot of good teams to get where we are.”

It was a rock bottom beginning for Reds starter Sonny Gray. The Cubs had three runs before Gray broke a sweat.

Asdrubel Cabrera, playing first base while slumping Joey Votto (5 for 34) took a day off, booted a ground ball. Schwindel singled to left and Ian Happ dropped the next pitch into the basket hanging atop the left field wall, a three-run home run that gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead.

After the inning, Gray removed his sweatshirt from under his jersey. And it worked. He retired 15 of the next 16, eight via strikeouts.

Cubs left-handed rookie Justin Steele kept the Reds quiet for five innings, then ran low on petrol and was running on fumes in the sixth.

And the Reds scored three times to tie it, 3-3.

The Reds loaded the bases with no outs on a full count walk to Tyler Stephenson, a double by Nick Castellanos and a hit by pitch on Suarez.

Steele also hit Cabrera with a pitch, forcing in a run, then threw a wild pitch to let in a second run.

But for some reason, Suarez remained at second on the wild pitch, forcing Cabrera to stay at first when the Reds should have had runners on third and second.

So when pinch-hitter Max Schrock doubled to left, only Suarez scored from second to tie it, 3-3. Had both runners moved up on the wild pitch, Cabrera would have scored a go-ahead run.

“You look at the play after the fact and there was an opportunity to advance,” said Bell. “If Geno (Suarez) had gone to third, Cabby (Cabrera) goes to second.

“It looked like Geno just froze up, didn’t get a good read on the ball,” he added. “For whatever reason, he just did not get a good read. It came up big because it was our opportunity to get back in the game. It could have been a bigger inning.”

Despite Gray’s perfection after the first inning, Bell went for more runs by sending Mike Moustakas up to hit for Gray. Moustakas popped out to first base.

If Suarez had moved to third on the wild pitch and the Reds were able to score two runs on Schrock’s hit to take a one-run lead, Gray would have stayed in. But with a tie game, Bell went for the lead and lifted Gray.

“If we got a lead, Sonny was going back out,” said Bell. “But once it was second and third (tied, 3-3), there was opportunity there to do some damage. It was tough taking him out there the way he was pitching, but I felt that was our opportunity.”

After the Cubs barged ahead in the eighth, interim manager Andy Green (manager David Ross is under COVID-19 protocol) no longer had traded closer Craig Kimbrel to finish games.

So he sent left-hander Adam Morgan out for the ninth, seeking his second career save. He retired Tyler Naquin on a ground ball, Schrock popped to center and pinch-hitter Votto, booed loudly as he walked to the plate, lined to center to end it.

TUESDAY’S GAME

Reds at Cubs, 7:40 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410