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The Cubs lost their second in a row in Cincinnati.

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David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

This road trip is not going the way we had expected it to go, no, not one bit.

The Cubs lost to the Reds 6-3 Friday night, their second straight defeat to a team they had utterly dominated from 2015-17 (40-17, and 20-8 at GABP). So far this year: 3-4, despite outscoring the Reds 33-20. (Three blowout wins will do that sort of thing.)

Luis Castillo held the Cubs hitless through three, the only baserunners being a walk to Ben Zobrist in the first and Chris Gimenez reaching on an error in the third.

Meanwhile, the Reds had taken a 1-0 lead on a double by Curt Casali, single by Castillo and single by Billy Hamilton.

Now think about those three names for a moment. The Reds have some pretty good hitters, but those three are not among them. Those three hitters, in order:

  • A backup catcher released by two different teams (Angels, Rangers) this year and playing in Triple-A until the Reds purchased him from the Rays three weeks ago;
  • A pitcher hitting .154 with 11 strikeouts in 26 at-bats entering the game, and
  • A position player hitting .211 with 73 strikeouts in 223 at-bats entering the game.

Seriously, a major-league pitcher like Jose Quintana should be able to retire these guys, or at least do enough with them so that no runs score as a result of their plate appearances.

Q got out of the inning, and two innings later the Cubs executed well. Ben Zobrist doubled with one out, and after Anthony Rizzo grounded out with Zobrist advancing to third, Javier Baez did a Javy thing [VIDEO].

I have often thought more players should try that, bunting with two out and a runner on third, with the third baseman playing back. It worked this time, scoring Zobrist, in large part because of Javy. Baez, when he does things like this, does not hesitate even for a split second. Many other players will. It’s that instinct: “I’m just going to do this,” that makes Baez so successful.

That tied the game. Kyle Schwarber un-tied it on the very next pitch [VIDEO].

Schwarber's two-run homer

Kyle Schwarber has homered in three of his last four games and leads the team with 15 on the year! #EverybodyIn

Posted by Chicago Cubs on Friday, June 22, 2018

Schwarber’s 15th made it 3-1 Cubs, and as Len Kasper noted on the TV broadcast, “that’s three runs on two pitches!” Fun fact:

That lead didn’t last long. In the fifth, Jose Peraza singled and stole second and scored on a single by Joey Votto. Eugenio Suarez followed with a two-run homer of his own, giving the Reds back the lead at 4-3.

Quintana finished the inning, but it wasn’t a good outing for him, allowing nine hits and four runs. Here are postgame comments [VIDEO] from Q and from Joe Maddon on Q’s outing.

I mean... you can’t really say much more than that. Q missed his spot against Suarez and it cost him, and the Cubs offense pretty much disappeared after that three-run inning. A single by Zobrist and Baez being hit by a pitch in the sixth was it. I could note that Justin Wilson and Rob Zastrzyny both got touched up for runs that gave the Reds what proved to be an insurmountable lead, but those didn’t really matter at all since the Cubs showed nothing offensively after the fourth.

Kris Bryant in particular had a bad night, striking out three times. In his last five games in the leadoff spot he is hitting .273/.304/.455 (6-for-22) with two doubles, a triple and eight strikeouts. Small sample size, but that’s not really what either KB or the team needs out of that spot.

It was the fifth straight win for the Reds. These kinds of things are going to happen, a good team comes in playing a mediocre one that’s on a hot streak and looks up after a couple of games saying, “What just happened?” Even MLB’s worst teams are going to have good runs like this, and the Cubs just happened to run into the Reds during one.

After being no-hit for six innings Friday, the Brewers defeated the Cardinals, so the Cubs now trail in the N.L. Central by two games.

And now the Cubs are going to have to punt on the starting rotation for the rest of this series. Since Luke Farrell was not needed in relief over the last few games, he will make his first start as a Cub (and second big-league start) in Saturday’s contest against the Reds’ Anthony DeSclafani. Tyler Chatwood will go Sunday, unless his wife goes into labor with their first child, in which case Mike Montgomery will get the call. Game time Saturday is 3:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage is via ABC7 Chicago.