Reds 5, Cubs 2: Six In A Row

Joe Robbins

The Cubs have their longest losing streak of the season: six. (Hint: It's probably not going to get better from here.)

The Dusty Baker who is managing the Cincinnati Reds must be a different guy from the Dusty Baker who managed the Cubs from 2003 through 2006.

Because I don't think the Cubs' version of Dusty Baker ordered a suicide squeeze bunt in the entire four years he was in Chicago. (OK, I exaggerate. But not by much.) Baker had Derrick Robinson -- a rookie outfielder starting just his seventh big-league game -- lay down a squeeze with the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning and Brandon Phillips on third base with one out.

Robinson's bunt was perfect; he was retired for the second out, but Phillips scored the lead, and eventual decisive, run. That play seemed to unhinge Travis Wood, who had set the Reds down pretty well up to then as the Cubs nursed a 2-1 lead. He was close to 100 pitches and after that run scored, a double by Ryan Hanigan and a single by Cesar Izturis -- who's been around so long that he was on a Cubs team managed by Baker -- extended Cincinnati's lead to three runs. That, given the Cubs' offensive impotence recently, is an almost insurmountable deficit.

The Reds won 5-2, giving the Cubs their sixth consecutive defeat. Since the beginning of 2010, the Cubs are 8-21 at Great American Ball Park, and overall they are 5-19 against the Reds over the last two seasons. It was the 15th game the Cubs have lost this year in which they had a lead, tied for the most in the N.L. with the Dodgers.

The Cubs had fashioned a 2-0 lead in the third inning off Homer Bailey, a pitcher who usually defeats the Cubs easily. Anthony Rizzo, breaking an 0-for-23 slump, doubled in David DeJesus, who had walked, and then Alfonso Soriano singled in Rizzo. Rizzo later singled and tried to stretch that into another double, but was thrown out, and then smacked a ball into the right-field corner and that time did have another double, posting a 3-for-3 day (with a walk). It was good, at least, to see Rizzo have a nice day. Unfortunately, no one except Rizzo, Soriano and Nate Schierholtz had hits for the Cubs Saturday afternoon.

The game dragged on at a ridiculously lugubrious pace, even after the Reds' big inning put it away; three hours and 22 minutes is too long for things like this. WGN-TV hired the DirecTV blimp for this game, giving us many pretty shots of the stadium and downtown Cincinnati; those were probably the best parts of this late afternoon spent watching another Cubs loss.

Rizzo's doubles gave the Cubs a total of 107 for the season. That's two more than the Orioles entering Saturday night's action for the MLB lead; the Cubs lead the National League by a significant margin (next are the Diamondbacks with 94). That's an average of 2.23 per game; that pace would give the Cubs 361 for the season. That would shatter the club record, which is 340, set in 1931 and tied in 2007. The major-league record is 376, set by the 2008 Rangers; the N.L. record is 373, set by the Cardinals in the freakish offensive explosion of 1930.

So there's that. The broadcasters and beat writers made a big deal about Travis Wood's quality-start streak ending, but in reality, what does that mean? The QS isn't that great a stat to begin with. Pitchers win all the time without throwing one. Wood threw decently until that squeeze bunt, by which time he was over 100 pitches anyway. The bullpen again did a decent job -- 2⅓ scoreless innings by Rafael Dolis and Kevin Gregg -- but by then, the game was long decided.

Amazingly enough, the 2013 Cubs still stand two games better than they did after 48 games a year ago; the 48th game of 2012 was this one, a home win over the Padres that broke a 12-game losing streak. Let's hope this year doesn't come to that. (FWIW, seven players who played for the Cubs in that game aren't with the team any more.)

I get tired of writing this, but the Cubs will try once again to avoid a road sweep Sunday, with Matt Garza facing Johnny Cueto. Garza threw very well in his first 2013 start last Tuesday in Pittsburgh. He'll likely have to throw a shutout to win.

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