There were plenty of things wrong with the Cubs' 5-3 loss to the Reds, and you can't go around blaming the umpires for all your troubles. So let me just get this out of the way first:
Call hurts #Cubs— Cubs Strike Zone (@CubsUmp) July 6, 2016
Strike 1 should be ball 4
The first one, okay, I can see that, on the edge, nearly half of similar pitches called strikes. Miguel Montero could have led off the seventh with a walk. Instead he hit a screaming line drive that was speared by Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen.
But the second one? Again, everyone in the ballpark from Kris Bryant to the people in the seats to, probably, you watching on TV, knew that was ball four.
Sadly, plate umpire Sean Barber didn't see it that way, and the inning was over. If Bryant walks, the Cubs have runners on first and second with two out and Anthony Rizzo at bat, and maybe that inning ends differently.
Now that I'm done complaining about the umpiring -- which was pretty awful all series -- let me get to the "plenty of things" I mentioned in the lede to this recap.
This loss is a shame not only because this is just the second series loss to the Reds since July 2014 (the Cubs also lost a Wrigley series to them at the beginning of September 2015), but because it ruined a really good first Cubs start from Adam Warren. Warren had a tough time with Reds leadoff hitter Zack Cozart, who had a 10-pitch at-bat and homered on pitch number 10.
But after that, Warren settled down and retired 15 of the next 17 hitters he faced, allowing just two singles in the second, and disposing of the final 11 batters he faced in order. He didn't walk anyone and struck out six, and taking away that 10-pitch at-bat to Cozart, he threw just 83 pitches to those 17 other hitters, a bit less than five pitches per hitter.
That's an excellent outing and should have been good enough for a win, except... except... except... the Cubs bullpen couldn't hold the lead.
That lead had been given on three hits in the second, including an RBI double by Addison Russell and an RBI single by Montero. Ben Zobrist's homer in the fifth [VIDEO] extended the lead to 3-1.
Trevor Cahill threw a decent sixth, striking out the side sandwiched around a walk to Joey Votto, but he fell apart in the seventh. Two singles put the tying runs on base and Tucker Barnhart, who came into this game with six career homers in 493 at-bats, launched a three-run shot into the left-field bleachers.
I mean... if you're supposed to be a dominating team, that just can't happen. The Cubs are going to have to go out and get some bullpen help.
The Reds scored another run in the eighth when Carl Edwards Jr. uncorked a wild pitch with Adam Duvall on third base with two out. That really can't happen either. Neither can the constant base-stealing. Montero finally threw a Reds runner out, Jay Bruce, trying to steal in the ninth, but even that one had to go to video review. The Reds stole four bases in five attempts in this one -- without even getting one from Billy Hamilton! That means that Montero has thrown out four of 47 runners trying to steal against him this year. That's... not good.
Not that the extra run really mattered. The Cubs offense seemed to fall asleep after the Barnhart homer. Zobrist walked with two out in the sixth, but was stranded. Rizzo walked leading off the eighth, but that inning ended on a double play. Tony Cingrani, who the Reds have tried just about everywhere, has suddenly become a decent closer for them. He dispatched the Cubs 1-2-3 on just 12 pitches in the ninth inning, and that was that.
But now having seen this team lose 12 of its last 17 games, it is perhaps time to be concerned. You no doubt saw/heard about the earlier roster moves Wednesday: Tommy La Stella was activated (and went 1-for-4) and David Ross, who was hit in the mask Tuesday, was placed on the seven-day concussion DL. That means someone else will catch Jon Lester Saturday in Pittsburgh, but Ross should be fine by the time the second half starts a week from Friday. And the Joel Peralta Experiment is over; he was designated for assignment to make room for Warren, who at the very least will be a helpful bullpen piece.
But the Cubs will need more relief help, and soon.
I have a few more notes on this game, mostly unrelated to the game itself.
First, as has been the case for the Cubs' throwback uniforms the last few years, the team did another excellent job on the 1916 throwbacks for this one, both for the Cubs and the visiting Reds. I particularly liked the Cubs' sock look, with black on the top and white on the bottom.
Second, I watched Dexter Fowler do some running in the outfield before the game. Here's some video:
I thought he looked pretty good. But then, I'm not the manager, so here's the update from Joe Maddon after that happened:
Maddon says still deciding plan for Fowler. Needs rehab games. "The next two days will tell whether he can participate or not" #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 6, 2016
So, I wouldn't expect to see Dex before maybe Saturday, or even Sunday. This team could use him.
Finally, the Cubs managed to beat a bad weather forecast and get this one in. Storms moved through overnight and early in the morning and the sun came out and it was extremely hot and humid all afternoon. And that caused dozens of people in the bleachers to miss much of the game as they sat downstairs near the cooling station and under giant fans. Others were carted out by paramedics. I have to partly blame this on the Cubs' decision to have no vendors in the bleachers at all this year. I understand this choice, up to a point; they want fans to sample the food items at Platform 14 and other new food stands in the bleachers. And, for sure, the new choices are very good.
But it's really unfair to force people, on very hot days, to miss large portions of the game standing in line for cold drinks, especially in the only section in the ballpark that has no shade. I bring sealed water and other drinks from home, so I'm covered (and you can, in fact, bring in any non-alcoholic drink to Wrigley as long as the bottle is factory-sealed), but how hard would it be to hire a few vendors to sell water and perhaps ice cream or the lemon-chill they sell, on hot/humid days like Wednesday? They'd sell a ton of 'em and it might just prevent someone from passing out.
The Cubs will try it again tomorrow, this time against the Braves, as they make up a game that was rained out April 30. Jason Hammel will throw this final home game before the All-Star break against Lucas Harrell.