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Reds 3, Cubs 2: This isn’t the way things were supposed to go

This game seemed well in hand... until it wasn’t.

Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the fact that the Cubs made the second game of Friday’s doubleheader a bullpen game, it looked like a doubleheader sweep was going to happen. A 2-1 lead heading to the ninth, the usually reliable Adbert Alzolay on to close...

Welp. Didn’t happen. Alzolay blew the save opportunity — his second straight, but only his third blown save of the year — and the Cubs had to settle for a split of the twin bill, losing 3-2 to the Reds.

Jose Cuas was the designated “opener” of this bullpen game. He was removed after just three hitters, of whom he retired two. Drew Smyly finished the first inning without incident, then threw another scoreless frame.

The Cubs took the lead in the top of the third. With two out, Cody Bellinger put a baseball into the seats at GABP [VIDEO].

If you didn’t see the game and are wondering why the first part of that clip has the radio call, then switches back to the TV call, it’s because the TV crew was in the middle of a conversation with Jed Hoyer when the pitch was thrown. (The talk with the Cubs President of Baseball Operations was actually interesting.)

Anyway, for Bellinger it was his 22nd of the year and he went 4-for-8 in the doubleheader.

Smyly allowed a run in the bottom of the third that tied the game 1-1. Overall, though, I thought Smyly threw pretty well — three innings, one run, four strikeouts. Smyly was removed from the rotation after a bad outing against the Mets August 7. In six relief appearances since then, he has posted a 1.13 ERA and 1.111 WHIP. (Yes, there was a start mixed in among those, another bad one against the Tigers.) Whatever the reason, Smyly has become a useful weapon out of the pen.

The game remained tied until the fifth. With one out, Nico Hoerner walked and stole second.

Ian Happ singled him in [VIDEO].

Hayden Wesneski relieved Smyly and was just outstanding, throwing 3⅓ innings, allowing just one hit and striking out six.

But the Cubs could not increase their lead. In the eighth, Bellinger singled with one out, but was thrown out trying to steal second. It was a very close play and the Cubs challenged, but it was ruled “call confirmed.”

(“Sensitive content”? Maybe for us as Cubs fans.)

Mark Leiter Jr. threw a scoreless eighth. That meant the Cubs pen, through eight, had allowed five hits and a run and struck out 12. This choice looked like a huge success for David Ross.

And then came the ninth. Again, the Cubs could not score despite a leadoff double by Seiya Suzuki.

Alzolay struck out Elly De La Cruz to begin the ninth.

Then former Cub Nick Martini came to the plate. Martini is the definition of a “bit player,” he had played in 112 MLB games with three teams before the Reds called him up a week ago.

Martini homered to tie the game. Christian Encarnacion-Strand singled and Stuart Fairchild ran for him.

As Alzolay struck out Will Benson, Fairchild stole second and a throwing error by Yan Gomes put Fairchild on third [VIDEO].

Noelvi Marte then singled in Fairchild and the game was over. Does Fairchild score from second on that hit? Maybe, but in the end that doesn’t matter, it just wasn’t a good game for Alzolay and he’s going to have to pick up the pieces because the Cubs need him back in a good closing frame of mind going forward.

This loss, as has been the case with several other recent defeats, isn’t the end of the world. The Brewers defeated the Phillies Friday, so the Cubs actually fell half a game further behind the division lead, now 3½ games out. But the Milwaukee win means the Cubs gained half a game on the Phillies and now trail them for the top wild card spot by 2½ games. The Cubs also lead the Giants and Diamondbacks, who are tied for the third wild card spot, by two games. They continue to lead the Reds by three games.

Twenty-seven games remain in the regular season. Fasten your seat belts, this is going to be an interesting ride.

The loss also means that if the Cubs want to win this series, they’ll have to do it the hard way, by winning both Saturday and Sunday. This is, of course, eminently possible. Saturday, Javier Assad will start for the Cubs and Andrew Abbott will take the mound for the Reds. Game time is 5:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.