The Cubs lost to the Reds 12-7 Wednesday evening in a game that showed many of the strengths — and weaknesses — of this year’s ballclub.
Seven runs! That’s good! The Cubs scored runs both with a multi-hit rally and a home run. They’ve scored 38 runs in six games, an average of 6.33 per game, and lead the major leagues in that category.
Twelve runs allowed... that’s not good. Six of them (five earned) were charged to the bullpen over 4⅔ innings, so Cubs relievers now have an ERA of 9.15 and, with six walks allowed, 20 walks in 19⅔ innings and a WHIP of 1.932. Good thing the Cubs rotation has done a lot better than that.
Before I get into some of the successes and failures of the offense and pitching, let’s talk about the triple play the Cubs turned [VIDEO].
Acknowledged: Third base umpire Larry Vanover blew that call. Near the end of the video you can see the ball briefly hit the infield dirt before Kris Bryant snagged it. KB clearly thought he’d caught it, because in stepping on third and throwing to first, those are the moves you’d make to turn a triple play. If Bryant had realized he hadn’t caught it, he probably would have thrown home to try for a force there.
Plays like that are not reviewable:
A line drive in the infield is not reviewable pic.twitter.com/qy4lS4hovz— C. トレント・ローズクランズ (@ctrent) July 30, 2020
Thus the bad call stands and the Cubs had their first triple play since 1997. From KB:
Kris Bryant said he was "convinced" he caught the ball in real time on the triple play. Then he quipped: "I should've just threw it to second and then he'd throw it to first and then it would've been four outs."— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 30, 2020
Before I get to the rest of the game, a bit of triple play history. It was the first Cubs triple play since 1997, when they turned one against the Giants in San Francisco. Here’s how that one went down:
July 30, 2020
It was the 40th triple play in Cubs history:
According to the #SABR Triple Plays Database, tonight's triple play is the 40th in @Cubs franchise history, tying them with the Braves for 3rd all-time since 1876. https://t.co/BJ5VNBgHr4 pic.twitter.com/p88YOZAo8D— SABR (@sabr) July 30, 2020
Here’s a bit of history on Cubs triple plays I wrote three years ago, and the Cubs haven’t turned one at Wrigley Field since 1983. Here’s video of that one:
Also, guess who hit into a triple play 13 years ago while a member of the Reds?
Cubs manager David Ross: "I hit into a triple play here, so that's the last time, I think, I'd seen one. K.B. was nice. I've never been on a team that actually turned a triple play, so it was really cool."— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 30, 2020
April 21, 2007: https://t.co/ypWXiipgXx
Now, let’s talk about the rest of this game.
The Reds took a 2-0 lead in the fourth when Mike Moustakas — playing in his first game since being reinstated from the injured list, where he’d been placed due to COVID-19 concerns — homered off Kyle Hendricks, the first runs the Professor had allowed this year.
Meanwhile, Sonny Gray was dealing. We knew this was not going to be an easy game to win regardless of how well Hendricks threw, because Gray is a tough opponent.
It got worse in the fifth. Freddy Galvis led off with a single and one out later Shogo Akiyama hit a double that bounced into the seats, saving (for the moment) a run. Joey Votto was given the open base at first with a Manfred, and then Eugenio Suarez made it 4-0 Reds with a single.
David Ross came and got Hendricks at that point. Kyle had thrown 85 pitches and wasn’t nearly as sharp as he had been last Friday, so I can’t argue with that call.
Rex Brothers entered and walked Moustakas, re-loading the bases.
Here’s where the three-batter rule really hurt the Cubs. In previous years, a manager would absolutely, positively have taken Brothers out with Nick Castellanos due up, because:
Castellanos slashed .370/.425/.713 vs. lefties in 2019. Once the lefty Brothers was brought in, without a GIDP vs. Moustakas, he was going to have to face Castellanos with MLB's new 3-batter minimum rule.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 30, 2020
Senzel adds a 2-out blast two batters later. It's 9-0 Reds.
And there you have it, two homers off Brothers. After the slam, there’s no real reason to burn another reliever because it’s 8-0 and Ross likely wanted to have a further look at Brothers. (Hint: He’s probably going to be replaced soon.) Brothers also faced three batters in the sixth, retiring two before walking Votto, and then James Norwood finished off that inning by getting Suarez to ground out.
That’s when the Cubs offense finally came alive, thanks in part to a Reds error. The error and two walks loaded the bases. Victor Caratini was hit by a pitch and the Cubs were finally on the board, trailing 9-1. A single by Nico Hoerner plated two more runs and that brought KB to bat [VIDEO].
Well. Now it’s 9-5, and even though no more runs scored in that inning, that created the idea that maybe, just maybe, the Cubs could come back.
That is, until Dillon Maples entered the game. You all know how much of an irrational like I have for Maples, but that outing has tested that to the extreme. Maples was just awful. He issued four walks (one of them with the bases loaded), a Reds hitter reached on an error, and a two-run double by Nick Senzel erased any real chance the Cubs had to come back. Maples looked like he was just slinging the ball to the plate without any idea where it was going to go. He threw only eight (!) strikes in 26 pitches. He’s got electric stuff and his slider is almost unhittable — if he can put it in the strike zone. It’s almost back-to-the-drawing-board time for Maples.
Three runs had scored and Duane Underwood Jr. entered to relieve Maples and it could have been worse, except three pitches into Underwood’s first batter, the aforementioned triple play happened. Underwood also threw a scoreless eighth, so there’s that. Underwood thus recorded six outs on only 16 pitches, pretty efficient, mostly thanks to the triple play.
The Cubs put two more on the board in the ninth. Hoerner singled with one out, and after KB flied to center, David Bote left the yard [VIDEO].
That ball went a long, long way:
#Cubs 7 @ #Reds 12 [T9-2o]:— Home Run Tracker (@DingerTracker) July 30, 2020
David Bote homers (2): line drive to CF (2-run)
Hit: 418ft, 108.1mph, 20°
Pitch: 87.6mph Slider (LHP Cody Reed, 1)
Bote has made the most of his playing time so far this season. He’s 5-for-10 with two homers, and with the designated hitter slot available, I’d like to see him get more at-bats. David Ross has been rewarding hot hitters with more playing time, so I suspect we will see that.
Here’s how I look at this game: The Cubs were going to have a tough time winning it with Sonny Gray pitching, even with Kyle Hendricks opposing him. They still put together quite a few runs off the Reds bullpen, even with their own bullpen almost as bad. The Reds are a good-hitting team and it didn’t seem likely the Cubs were going to keep them quiet for the entire series.
The Cubs still have a chance for a series win Thursday evening. Yu Darvish will start for the Cubs against Luis Castillo for the Reds. Game time is 30 minutes earlier tonight, at 5:10 p.m. CT. TV coverage is on Marquee Sports Network.
Oh, and once again there’s a forecast of rain in the Cincinnati area this evening.