Brown's solid day spoiled in loss to Reds
Kamil Krzaczynski - USA Today Sports

Brown's solid day spoiled in loss to Reds

by - Senior Writer -

CHICAGO - You can't figure out this Chicago Cubs (29-31) team, can you? One night after coming away with a dramatic win, some felt that it was a win that could catapult them into a strong final push before the all-star break. Then came Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field where the Cubs offense went quiet again in a 5-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds (26-33).

Coming off his best start as a pro, Ben Brown was back on the bump for the Cubs and put forth another great effort. Brown struck out six in his five innings to go with one walk, but was charged with five earned runs. Sometimes throwing too many strikes can be a bad thing, and this was one of those cases for Brown, who threw tons of strikes, but just too many hittable strikes.

Nick Lodolo, on the other hand, didn't throw as many hittable strikes, improving to 5-2 with a 3.11 ERA for the season. Lodolo had moments when he looked like he was about to crack, but he still managed to get through six innings, allowing two runs and striking out three. Most of the Reds' damage came in the second inning, after the Cubs wasted a first-inning scoring chance.

Three batters into the second, it was the Reds who loaded the bases as Jake Fraley led things off with a double before advancing to third on the Tyler Stephenson single. Brown would hit the next batter to load the bases, only to have Jonathan India give the Reds a 1-0 lead with a sacrifice fly. It was a lead the Reds would never give up as they led from start to finish, with TJ Friedl providing the game's big blow with his three-run shot that put the Reds up 4-0.

His homer capped off the four-run inning for the Reds and proved to be Cincinnati's game-winning hit. One inning later saw the Reds offense at it again as Jeimer Candelario and Spencer Steer started things off with a pair of singles, with the Fraley sacrifice fly extending the Reds lead to 5-0. Those would be the only runs the Reds offense would score as Brown retired seven of the next eight hitters to end his outing before turning things over to the pen.

Although the Cubs had chances to keep things close in the first and third innings, they were unable to cash in, as Lodolo managed to escape trouble to keep the Reds in front. That was until a fifth-inning rally got the Cubs rolling, as a pair of one-out singles from Nico Hoerner and Seiya Suzuki set the Cubs up. Those singles were followed by another Cody Bellinger single to pull the Cubs within 5-1, only to have Lodolo get out of the inning with a double play.

With Brown out of the game, it would be up to Drew Smyly and the pen to keep things close. Smyly did his job in the sixth, but Kyle Hendricks was the real story for the Cubs as he tossed three shutout innings of relief, striking out three in the process. It was the kind of outing the Cubs had been hoping for from him since he moved to the pen, and it was by far his best outing of the season.

Now, with a run on the board, the Cubs offense started to show signs of life as they opened up the bottom of the sixth with a pair of singles from Patrick Wisdom and Ian Happ. After Dansby Swanson moved both runners up 90 feet, newly added David Bote pushed home the Cubs' second run of the game, and his RBI forceout made things 5-2. For Bote, it was his first big-league RBI since 2022, which had to feel good for the veteran.

Once the seventh inning got underway, it was all about who had the better bullpen as Nick Martinez took over for Lodolo only to give up a Bellinger double three batters in. Bellinger would be left stranded on the bases as the Reds maintained their three-run lead. Despite getting through three scoreless frames of relief, it wasn't always easy for Hendricks, who allowed a pair of singles in the eighth and two more baserunners in the ninth.

Fortunately, he avoided any damage, which hasn't been the case for most of his outings this season. Down to their final three outs, the Cubs had some work to do, and they would have to come against Alexis Diaz in the ninth. Anytime you can put the leadoff man on, it immediately improves your chances, as Michael Busch led the bottom of the ninth off with a walk. He would be the final baserunner for the Cubs as Diaz bounced back to recover the next three hitters and capped off the series win for the Reds.

This loss gives the Cubs seven consecutive series losses, and they have now dropped 18 of their last 25 games.

Bellinger led the Cubs' offense with three hits, with Hoerner picking up two. Chicago will now get the day off on Monday before opening the 2024 version of the Cross-Town Cup on Tuesday.

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