Eddie Butler, I wish I knew who you were.
Are you the guy who threw five shutout innings against the Nationals last Monday (granted, with some hard contact)?
Or are you the guy who, after getting through the first three innings with only 35 pitches, threw 33 in a disastrous fourth, not even finishing the inning before allowing four runs?
Sadly, the latter was the case Saturday afternoon and the Cubs dropped their second in a row to the Reds, 5-3.
Here’s a Butler highlight, though: He picked Billy Hamilton off first base after Hamilton singled to lead off the first inning [VIDEO].
After that, things got good for the Cubs in the third inning. Jon Jay homered with one out to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. It was his first homer of the season. Jay’s not exactly a power hitter, though he hit 10 back in 2011 for the Cardinals and seven as recently as 2014.
That’s worth looking at!
Jon Jay cracks his first home run of the season, a solo jack to right, to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the top of the 3rd!!! #ThatsCub pic.twitter.com/yJosiBuhIn— TheRenderMLB (@TheRenderMLB) July 1, 2017
One out later, Anthony Rizzo walked and Willson Contreras followed with a monster home run:
Willson Contreras launches a two-run dinger to left-center, extending the Cubs' lead to 3-0 in the top of the 3rd!!! #ThatsCub pic.twitter.com/HjIZrnBbLj— TheRenderMLB (@TheRenderMLB) July 1, 2017
That ball: Crushed!
July 1, 2017
But the Cubs threw their 3-0 lead away just one inning later. Walks helped do Butler in. He walked Scooter Gennett to lead off the inning. Joey Votto followed with a single and then Adam Duvall, whose homer gave the Reds all they needed Friday night, doubled in a run, with Votto stopping at third. Butler got an out and then Scott Schebler was intentionally passed.
Butler got the second out and then issued a bases-loaded walk to Tucker Barnhart to make it 3-2, which was followed by a two-run single by Reds pitcher Jackson Stephens. You know, the guy making his big-league debut. Jackson was 5-for-33 (.152) with 12 strikeouts in his minor-league career. You just can’t be giving up hits to guys like this. With two out, that’s the guy you want to get to end the inning and preserve a lead.
Butler, in my view, is just too inconsistent. I suspect he’ll be back at Iowa soon; the Cubs might be ready shortly to give Brett Anderson another shot at the rotation.
The Cubs did have chances after their three-run rally in third. In the sixth, Contreras doubled and one out later, Addison Russell was hit by a pitch. But Javier Baez hit into a double play to end that inning.
In the eighth, Kris Bryant singled, his first hit of the day in a ballpark he loves to hit in, and eventually Ian Happ walked with two out to put the tying run on base. But Ben Zobrist, just back from the disabled list, grounded out to end the inning. Maybe he was tired from the 300-mile drive from Knoxville to Cincinnati:
Zobrist is driving from Tennessee to Cincy. Maddon wants him to pinch hit tonight, start Sun. #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 1, 2017
The bullpen did a decent job of keeping the game close, 4⅓ innings of one-run ball. The run off Koji Uehara in the seventh put the game out of reach, but in reality it was out of reach when the Reds took the lead. The Cubs came from behind Thursday in Washington, but since then have seemed kind of passive at the plate.
If the Cubs can’t win games in Cincinnati, where they have had great success over the last two years — 17-5 combined in 2015 and 2016 — then I’m concerned about the future of this year’s team. This series is the first one the Cubs have lost at GABP in almost three years, since they lost four of five from July 7-10, 2014. The July 10 game, the only win in that series, was the famous game in which Rizzo confronted Aroldis Chapman from the Cubs’ dugout. I’m not advocating something like that to “fire” a team up, because that can’t be forced, it has to be organic, and it’s not even what this team needs. They just need to play up to their ability.
Just in case you’d like to relive that 2014 kerfuffle, here’s the video:
The Cubs thus will have a losing road trip, as they are now 4-6 with one game remaining, and with the Brewers defeating the Marlins Saturday afternoon, now trail Milwaukee by three games in the N.L. Central, their largest deficit in the division since May 17.
One more note, on the Fourth of July-themed uniforms that will be worn twice more by the Cubs (all teams are wearing them through Tuesday, overkill in my view): They’re all right. The socks are an interesting touch, the caps (at least the Cubs version) better than other similar caps in recent years. I do hope MLB will reconsider the 10 (!) dates they made teams wear these special-event uniforms this year; that many “special” uniform dates makes an oxymoron out of the word “uniform.” It is, of course, all about marketing, but they could likely sell just as many of these if the teams wore them a little less often.
The best the Cubs can do now is come home right at .500 if they can salvage the final game of the series Sunday afternoon. Jake Arrieta will face Tim Adleman in the series finale at 12:10 p.m. CT.