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Reds 7, Cubs 4: September Has Not Been Kind

This was not how we envisioned this series ending up.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Now I know the Cubs are in a real playoff race, because the last two innings of the Cubs' 7-4 loss to the Reds really toyed with my emotions. (Yours too, right?)

While the Cubs were trailing 4-2 with two out and a runner on first in the bottom of the eighth, I started thinking, "How can the Cubs lose to this bad team?" Then Kris Bryant buoyed those emotions and got everyone in the ballpark jazzed up with his 22nd home run of the season, scoring Dexter Fowler and tying the game. It didn't look as if Reds manager Bryan Price was going to use Aroldis Chapman in the ninth if they weren't ahead, either, because he had a righthander warming up alongside Chapman.

Then Bryant made a costly error in the top of the ninth after Hector Rondon had retired the first two hitters on four pitches and allowed a single to Jason Bourgeois that rolled about 30 feet from the plate. Still, the inning should have been over, though the error was on a sharply hit ball by Jay Bruce that just went through Bryant's legs.

You could predict the rest, right? Joey Votto hit a three-run homer, all the runs unearned, and the Reds silenced the crowd and brought back my gloomy mood. You felt that too, I'm pretty sure.

The Cubs actually had a chance against Chapman, whose command deserted him in the ninth. He gave up a single to Austin Jackson and then walked pinch-hitter Chris Denorfia with one out, bringing the tying run to the plate in the person of Javier Baez.

Well, that got everyone excited again. 100 mile-per-hour pitcher against a hitter whose bat speed is at least that fast. If Baez had actually been able to make solid contact with a Chapman fastball, it might have gone a long way. Baez nearly screwed himself into the ground with one swing, and did eventually hit the ball, but right at Todd Frazier at third base for a force play. Chapman then struck out Fowler to end it.

That's the first time the Reds have won a series since they won back-to-back sets against the teams the Cubs are chasing in the N.L. Central, the Cardinals (at St. Louis!) and Pirates, at the end of July.

This one didn't start out propitiously for the Cubs, either. Bourgeois sent Jason Hammel's second pitch of the game into the left-field bleachers, wind-blown to be sure, but a home run nevertheless. The Reds added a run in the second, bu tthe Cubs tied the game on solo homers by Tommy La Stella (his first as a Cub) in the third and Anthony Rizzo (No. 27) in the fourth.

Here's where the wheels started falling off. In the fifth, Eugenio Suarez, who went 4-for-12 in the series with a double and two home runs, doubled. One out later, Reds pitcher Raisel Iglesias sent a ball to the right-field wall for a triple. Here's a weird historical note about that one:

More importantly than that, how is a pitcher who at the time was 1-for-25 in his career with 10 strikeouts able to hit a triple? You just can't pitch guys like this in a way where they can hit the ball like that! The Reds added a run in the sixth. After the first two hitters singled, Hammel was lifted for Trevor Cahill, who was making his Cubs debut. Cahill did what he does best, induce ground balls. One of them, unfortunately, scored a run to make it 4-2. Cahill's velocity looked good and his balls had enough sink on them to get the grounders. That could be good news for him and the Cubs in the future.

Before Bryant's blast in the eighth, the Cubs had a chance to score in the seventh when Jackson got his first Cubs hit, a double to left-center. Jackson advanced to third on a passed ball, but was stranded. The Cubs were 3-for-11 overall with RISP, which isn't bad, but stranded seven runners.

Look, errors like Bryant's are going to happen. It's just that this one happened at the worst possible time, and a good hitter (Votto) pounced on it.

More critical to this game, and for the Cubs' immediate future was the late scratch (about 30 minutes before game time) of Kyle Schwarber from the starting lineup. Here are the details, which don't sound too bad:

Kyle Schwarber was scratched from Wednesday's lineup with right rib soreness, which he felt while hitting in the batting cage prior to the game. He was to undergo an MRI as a precaution.

On Tuesday, Schwarber hit his 12th home run since being called up on July 17, which is second in the National League since the All-Star break. He was batting .255 since the break, with five doubles and 32 RBIs.

The Cubs have an off-day Thursday, and they hope Schwarber will be able to play Friday.

I wonder if Schwarber hurt himself while making that dive after a ball in left field in Tuesday night's game. In any case, it doesn't sound too serious, although:

Pending the results of the MRI, we hope he'll be back in the lineup Friday when the Diamondbacks come to town.

It's just one game, but this one took a lot out of me, and I assume you, as well as the crowd at Wrigley on a very hot afternoon. It was hot enough that the bleachers began to empty out in the middle innings, especially in right field. We haven't had much weather like this all summer; now it's September and it finally feels summerlike at Wrigley, and this is supposed to continue through the weekend.

There's still plenty of time left in the season and the Cubs still have a pretty large lead over the Giants, their nearest competitor for the second wild-card spot. Pending the Giants' game with the Dodgers tonight, the lead stands at six games. Also pending the Pirates' contest tonight in Milwaukee with the Brewers, the Cubs trail Pittsburgh by five games.

The Cubs will attempt to pick up the pieces of this mess and rest up on their off day Thursday. (So will all of us, I think, though stick around BCB, there will be plenty of things to discuss!) Jon Lester will take the mound for the Cubs. At this writing the Diamondbacks pitchers for all three days are listed as "TBD." I hope to have those available for the series preview, which will post here sometime tomorrow. The D'backs will be without Paul Goldschmidt on Friday:

Congrats to Goldschmidt, who is expected at Wrigley for Saturday's game.

Here's a note to pick you up, perhaps: Bryant's two-run homer gave him 84 RBI, which leads all major-league rookies and is just two short of the team record for a rookie, set by Billy Williams in 1961 (and tied by Geovany Soto in 2008). Williams also holds the Cubs rookie record for homers, 25, which Bryant could also have by the end of the season.

Hang in there. This is still a good team and they can resume the winning on Friday.