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Reds 8, Cubs 5: Baseball progress is not linear

The Cubs, once again, could not complete a series sweep.

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The headline to this recap of the Cubs’ 8-5 loss Sunday to the Reds is a paraphrase of something Theo Epstein once said, when reminding Cubs fans that they couldn’t expect instant progress during the rebuild of a decade ago.

There are going to be glitches and there are going to be setbacks and we saw some of those during Sunday’s defeat. Even so, there were also bright spots in this game and the Cubs still had a chance to come back in the ninth inning.

The Cubs took an early lead in this game on this two-run homer by Patrick Wisdom in the second inning [VIDEO].

Unfortunately, Keegan Thompson had one of his worst outings of the year, maybe THE worst. He couldn’t throw strikes and by the time David Ross lifted him with two out in the second inning, he had already thrown 70 pitches, yikes. The Reds took a 4-2 lead mostly courtesy of a three-run homer by Aristides Aquino after Thompson had walked the first two hitters in the inning. Aquino doesn’t seem to hit anyone but Cubs pitchers; entering this game he had a .278/.354/.694 slash line in 25 career games vs. the Cubs. Today’s was his 10th career homer against Cubs pitching (of 35 overall in his career). He hasn’t hit more than four against any other team.

The Cubs might have had a chance to score more in the third. With one out, Ian Happ walked and one out later, Franmil Reyes doubled and... oh, no, what are you doing, Ian? [VIDEO]

I couldn’t tell whether Willie Harris sent Happ, but the better idea would have been to hold at third with Nico Hoerner due up next. Yes, it took a perfect throw to get Happ, but it wasn’t all that close.

The Cubs got the lead back in the fourth. With two out, Zach McKinstry doubled and Yan Gomes sent a baseball into orbit [VIDEO].

That ball was crushed!

On the very next pitch, Christopher Morel gave the Cubs the lead [VIDEO].

Nope, I don’t know who that voice is, either — must have been from an MLB highlights package.

Anyway, Anderson Espinoza pitched well... for a while. The Reds tied the game after Espinoza balked two Reds runners from first and second to second and third in the bottom of the fourth. If that had not happened, the ground ball that scored that run probably is an inning-ending double play.

Espinoza got in trouble in the fifth with a single and a walk, so Michael Rucker was summoned, and that did not end well. Rucker did strike out Aquino for the second out of the inning, but then allowed an RBI single to Albert Almora Jr. and a two-run double to Austin Romine. Seriously? Come on now, Austin Romine came into this game batting .182/.217/.205 in 47 plate appearances with zero RBI this year and no one should be giving up RBI doubles to him.

The Reds didn’t score any more runs, although Rucker and Kervin Castro sure gave them enough chances. The Reds had RISP in the sixth, seventh and eighth but did not score.

The Cubs also had their chances to score, particularly in the eighth when a single by Wisdom and walks by Gomes and Morel loaded the bases with one out. But Nelson Velázquez and Happ struck out to end the inning, and the Velázquez strikeout was particularly frustrating because after starting with a 2-0 count, two of the three pitches he swung at were well out of the strike zone:

Progress, not linear, etc. Young player, still learning, he’ll get better. Doesn’t make this at-bat any less frustrating, though.

Even in the ninth, the Cubs brought the tying run to the plate with one out. Seiya Suzuki reached on an error and one out later, Hoerner singled, advancing Suzuki to third. That brought up Wisdom, who flied to right, but not deep enough to score a run. McKinstry, who had previously doubled twice, was called out on strikes to end the game [VIDEO].

Well, again, these are learning experiences, and the lesson there is: On a 1-2 pitch that’s close, at least try to foul it off.

The Cubs have, however, won three straight series and if they can keep doing that, they will end this season on a positive note.

They should have another chance at a series win when they travel to Washington to face the woeful Nats, who are 18-42 at home. The series begins Monday evening with Marcus Stroman facing Josiah Gray. Game time Monday is 6:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.