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Reds 6, Cubs 5: The Cubs need a closer

It’s not like I’m telling you anything you don’t already know.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

No, let me amend that headline: The Cubs need a lockdown closer, and they need one soon, because losing games like this is not something a playoff contender can keep doing.

The Cubs took an early lead and made this game look like it might be a blowout, then came back with a stirring eighth-inning rally to take the lead, but Steve Cishek was awful in the closer role Friday and the Cubs lost the opener of a three-game series 6-5 to the Reds.

Let’s begin with the beginning, because if this game had ended after the fifth inning we’d all have been very happy with the result. Kyle Hendricks retired the first 10 Reds he faced, got into a bit of trouble after a hit batter with two out in the fourth, but after five he had allowed just one run on four hits.

Meanwhile, the Cubs were pounding baseballs out of the yard.

Kyle Schwarber, leading off the bottom of the first [VIDEO].

Oh, my:

That ball bounced off the back of the right-field porch and onto Sheffield:

Fun fact:

More home-run fun, in the third, Kris Bryant after Schwarber had walked [VIDEO].

It’s 3-0, but not for long, right, Anthony Rizzo? [VIDEO]

As Len Kasper called, it hit the right-field video board before landing in the patio, otherwise it would have gone a long, long way:

It’s 4-0, and even after Hendricks’ little burp in the fourth it’s still 4-1. But Kyle ran out of gas in the sixth, allowing a leadoff single and then a two-run homer by Yasiel Puig. Hendricks left after six, allowing three runs on six hits, with nine strikeouts. Not quite as dominant as he had been at home most of the year, but still, left with the lead.

Brad Brach made that lead disappear in the seventh, allowing three two-out hits for the tying run.

I should note here that on a couple of up-the-middle singles in this game by the Reds, they appeared to be baseballs that Javier Baez usually gets to, or at least makes diving attempts on. There was none of that in this game, and to me, that indicates Javy’s not at 100 percent yet. He also went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts at the plate Friday afternoon, and honestly, I think he could use another day off.

Nine straight Cubs were retired between KB’s leadoff single in the fifth through the end of the seventh, but Rizzo led off the eighth with a base hit, and then stole second without a throw. You know, Rizzo, when younger, used to steal a few bases (he had 17 in 2015), but he’ll be 30 in August and doesn’t have much baserunning speed now. He does, though, have a lot of baserunning smarts, and that steal proved to be important. Two outs later, Victor Caratini walked, and Willson Contreras came to the plate as a pinch-hitter [VIDEO].

The hit was nicely placed, and if Nick Senzel doesn’t briefly mishandle the ball he probably throws Rizzo out at the plate. The play was close, but Rizzo beat the throw and the Cubs had a 5-4 lead.

And you know, for a team that has designs of winning a World Series this year, they have to, HAVE TO, have a guy who can get three outs after that without giving up runs. Steve Cishek was not that guy, not in this game, anyway. He was all over the place in walking Joey Votto, then Eugenio Suarez sent a ball into the bleachers and the Reds had a 6-5 lead. Cishek then hit Jesse Winker and was excused for the rest of the afternoon. James Norwood, just up from Iowa, walked the first man he faced but retired the next three in order. Norwood can hit 97, and threw it well in this game, but you wouldn’t want to throw him to the wolves as closer, not yet, anyway.

The Reds have one of those lockdown closers, Raisel Iglesias, and he retired the Cubs 1-2-3 on just 12 pitches for his 11th save of the year. The Cubs don’t have 11 saves as a team (just nine), and including two blown saves in this game, they now have 13 blown saves, and that doesn’t cut it. Not at all.

I don’t know what the answer is, not right now, and don’t say “Craig Kimbrel” because that’s not the answer to the Cubs’ issues anyway. Even if you ignore the fact that Kimbrel was bad in the second half of 2018 and bad in the 2018 postseason, if you sign him June 4 (to avoid draft compensation), I wouldn’t want him on a big-league mound until after the All-Star break. He hasn’t been in a game since October and didn’t have spring training. The Cubs ought to look elsewhere.

And they are going to have to fix this, and fix it soon.

They’ll try to even up the series Saturday afternoon at 1:20 p.m. CT., weather permitting. (At least it didn’t rain Friday, despite forecasts of bad weather.) Yu Darvish will start for the Cubs and Tyler Mahle goes for the Reds. TV coverage Saturday will be via ABC7 Chicago (and on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Reds market territories).