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Cubs 6, Reds 5: David Bote walks it off

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Nothing’s ever easy, but the Cubs walked it off — literally — against the Reds for a series win.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

After a long afternoon of odd baseball happenings (a “space oddity,” maybe?) at Wrigley Field, all it took was a bases-loaded walk to David Bowie David Bote and the Cubs won the ballgame 6-5 and the series over the Reds, a much tougher series than any of us might have expected.

Lots to unpack here, so let’s get started!

The Cubs scored first. We are not used to seeing that! Kyle Schwarber walked and Ian Happ singled to lead off the second, and Addison Russell smacked a double to right to make it 2-0 Cubs.

Before Sunday, the last time the Cubs scored first in a game was June 27 in Los Angeles, where they also took a 2-0 lead before losing 7-5. And before Sunday, the last time the Cubs scored first and won the game was June 20 at Wrigley against the Dodgers, a 4-0 shutout.

The Reds came right back with two out in the third when Billy Hamilton doubled, stole third and scored on a single by Jose Peraza. Thank heavens for this play [VIDEO], a nice throw by Albert Almora Jr. to nail Peraza trying to take second, or maybe the Reds score more runs in that inning.

The Reds took the lead in the fourth, when Joey Votto walked and Eugenio Suarez followed with a home run off Jon Lester, who was definitely not sharp in this one. Lester didn’t strike out anyone until the fifth inning and wound up with just two K’s on the afternoon. This, even though he got through the first two innings throwing just 11 pitches.

The Cubs tied it up in the bottom of the inning. Schwarber doubled and went to third on a single by Happ. Russell hit into a force play scoring Schwarber; at that point the bottom of the order had been responsible for almost all the offense and definitely all the scoring by the Cubs.

Then things started to get really weird.

With two out in the fifth, Hamilton walked.

I mean, what is it with the Cubs and Billy Hamilton? In 12 games against the Cubs so far this year, Hamilton is hitting .324/.419/.351 (12-for-37) with six walks. Six walks! This is a guy who is almost unwalkable, he came into this game with a career OBP of .299. All the other teams he’s faced — 263 plate appearances’ worth — have walked him just 25 times. Naturally, when Hamilton’s walked, he’s going to take off, and so he did, and two errors, one on a throw by Willson Contreras, the other on mishandling the ball by Albert Almora Jr. after it bounced into center field, allowed Hamilton to circle the bases and give the Reds a 4-3 lead.

Seriously, Cubs. Whatever your approach is to Billy Hamilton, it’s got to be scrapped and re-worked before these teams meet again.

Michael Lorenzen, who’s been pretty good in relief for the Reds this year, threw a pair of scoreless innings against the Cubs and then ran out of gas with two out in the seventh, and the Reds repaid the sketchy fielding the Cubs had given them. Almora singled with two out and Jason Heyward singled him to third.

Javier Baez was next, and... well, watch [VIDEO].

Baez’s single scored Almora and when Hamilton rather indifferently threw the ball back to the infield and the rest of the Reds defense seemed equally not paying attention, Heyward continued running and scored all the way from first, giving the Cubs a 5-4 lead. Javy wound up on third, but Anthony Rizzo grounded out to end the inning. Rizzo had a rough day, going 0-for-5.

The Cubs used three relievers to nail down a shaky eighth. Carl Edwards Jr. walked Peraza, who promptly stole second. Tucker Barnhart tried to sacrifice him to third, but CJ’s accurate throw nailed Peraza.

Justin Wilson entered to face Joey Votto. This, a while back, might not have filled me with confidence. But Wilson has been better lately and he struck out Votto on a 2-2 cutter, a really nice pitch. Steve Cishek was summoned and promptly hit Suarez with his first offering.

If you’re thinking this game isn’t going to be an instructional video for young players, you’re probably right. And I haven’t even gotten to the Cubs’ ninth and 10th innings.

Cishek got Scooter Gennett to fly to right to end the eighth, and that wasn’t as easy as it looked, with Heyward squinting into the late-afternoon sun.

The Cubs didn’t score in the last of the eighth, and so Brandon Morrow entered for the save.

Whoops! Not Morrow’s day. Adam Duvall hit Morrow’s second pitch deep into the left-field bleachers to tie the game, just his second blown save of 2018 and first since May 5. He finished up the inning without further damage, and the Cubs set about trying for a walkoff ninth inning.

With one out, David Bote, who’d double-switched into the game when Morrow entered, singled to right. A wild pitch moved Bote to second, and another single by Almora put Bote on third with the winning run and one out. Heyward hit a grounder toward Votto, but Votto had no play, and the bases were loaded.

That brought up Baez, to a huge ovation, and the Reds brought Duvall in from left to make a five-man infield. All Javy had to do was get the ball in the air toward left, and the game would be over. But he hit a bouncer right at Gennett, who threw home for a force play. It was reviewed [VIDEO] and it appeared from one angle that Reds catcher Curt Casali might not have been touching the plate.

Not enough evidence there to overturn, though, and the game continued. Rizzo hit a ball right on the nose, a line drive that one batter earlier would have won the game. But it held up too long, Hamilton caught it, and on to extras we went.

Rizzo got double-switched out of the game with Victor Caratini replacing him, and Luke Farrell on to pitch. It was clear that Joe Maddon was setting Farrell up to throw multiple innings. Farrell threw an efficient 1-2-3 10th which included two strikeouts and getting Votto to ground to second. The Cubs neutralized Votto pretty well in this series; he was 3-for-12 with two walks and just one extra-base hit. If only they could do the same for Billy Hamilton...

Anyway, Contreras walked to lead off the bottom of the 10th and was wild-pitched to second.

Didn’t we just see this inning?

Caratini struck out and Happ was intentionally passed. Then Russell hit a bouncer toward Votto and... well, watch [VIDEO].

Votto juggled the ball as he crossed first base, and the “out” call on the field was overturned on review, and fairly quickly, as it was pretty obvious via vide.

So now the bases are loaded. Again. With one out. Again. And that brought up Bote, who ran the count full and then... well, watch! [VIDEO]

Reds reliever Jackson Stephens really couldn’t find the strike zone at all; in addition to the intentional walk which has no pitch count, he threw just eight strikes in 20 pitches, and the Cubs had a wacky walkoff win. I’m sure Reds fans are wondering why Raisel Iglesias wasn’t in this game, as he had been warming up, but I’m just as happy Jim Riggleman decided to go with Stephens.

It wasn’t pretty, but the Cubs will take it, and the win moves them to a season high 15 games over .500. The Brewers won their game Sunday afternoon so the Cubs remain 1½ games out of first place in the N.L. Central.

It was, once again, picture-postcard gorgeous at Wrigley Field Sunday, temps in the low 80s, a nice breeze, unlimited sunshine and low humidity. I can’t remember the last time we had three such perfect weather days in a row in Chicago in July. The baseball nearly matched the weather, too, save for the loss Friday afternoon. The Cubs have now won nine of 11 since they ended their five-game losing streak in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago, and seem on a nice roll as they head to the West Coast for a pair of three-game series heading into the All-Star break.

Monday evening at 9:15 p.m. CT, they’ll open a series in San Francisco against the Giants. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and Andrew Suarez goes for the Giants. TV coverage Monday is via NBC Sports Chicago.

Also — I know many of you are following the All-Star selection show and the Cubs will have two starting players!

Congratulations to both Javy and Willson. Josh will have a complete recap of the All-Star selections coming up a bit later this evening.