Cubs avoid sweep with win over Reds
Katie Stratman - USA Today Sports

Cubs avoid sweep with win over Reds


by - Senior Writer -

CINCINNATI — This weekend at the Great American Ballpark hasn't gone as planned for the Chicago Cubs (32-34), who continue to struggle against the NL Central. Not only did they enter Sunday with a chance to get swept by the Cincinnati Reds (32-34), but they entered the game 1-5 against the Reds and a Putrid 7-17 against the NL Central.

You'll never make the playoffs if you can't win within your division, and the Cubs know something has to change for them to get back on track. You knew at some point, teams would start to figure out Shota Imanga, and once they did, it would be up to him to adjust back. His past few starts weren't pretty, but Imanaga returned to doing what he does best on Sunday as he pitched into the seventh to help lead the Cubs to the 4-2 victory.

Imanaga struck out seven and walked one, keeping his ERA under 2.00 at 1.96 and improving to 6-1 on the season. Opposing him was the once formidable Frankie Montas, whose first few months with the Reds have been a struggle. That continued to be the case in this one, as all four of the Cubs' runs came in the game's first two innings. Montas was chased after allowing four earned runs in just 1 1/3 innings. He walked three and struck out two.

Three of the four runs off of him came in the first inning as the Cubs got off to a much-needed fast start. A pair of walks mixed with a Seiya Suzuki double loaded the bases, but with one out, the Cubs were in danger of wasting another opportunity. That was until Ian Happ did what Happ does at the Great American Ballpark as he laced a bases-clearing RBI double to right to put the Cubs in front for good, 3-0.

Those would be the only runs the Cubs would need in this one, as Happ continues to have unbelievable success at that park. A lead-off double from Miguel Amaya to begin the second inning had the Cubs offense in business once again before the Mike Tauchman single extended their lead to 4-0. Cody Bellinger would add an additional single later in the inning as Montas was removed in favor of Carson Spiers, who went on to deliver in a big way out of the pen.

Spiers not only came in to put out the fire in the second but went on to toss 5 2/3 scoreless innings, scattering four hits and striking out seven. Although a 4-0 lead was looking good early on, the Cubs offense failed to add any additional runs, and given how poorly the pen has performed this season, you had to have some worries if you are a Cubs fan.

One reason Imanaga has struggled the past few starts is that teams have gotten more aggressive against him, leading to a significant increase in the long ball. That was a concern heading into the season when you looked at his style of pitching, and it bit him again in the third inning, with Luke Maile connecting for his second homer of the season to make things 4-1.

Apart from that hit, Imanaga was about as good as you could be, as he allowed just one walk over the next four innings, and the Cubs continued to lead 4-1. Then came the seventh inning when Christopher Morel led things off with a single ahead of the Happ walk as the Cubs were set up to break things open. That was until a Dansby Swanson double play killed the rally as the Reds escaped without further damage.

After cruising through six, Imanaga came out for the seventh and suddenly appeared mortal on the mound. Three straight singles to begin the inning were more hits than he allowed in the entire game, with Santiago Espinal making things 4-2 with his single. Espinal also made the biggest blunder in the inning as he tried to advance to second on his single, only to be gunned down by Happ at second for the first out.

Imanaga would face once more hitter before being lifted for Mark Leiter Jr, but after four quick pitches, it was the Reds stranding a runner on third with the Cubs still in front 4-2. Following an easy 1,2,3 inning from Brent Suter in the top half of the eighth, Letier Jr continued to make things look easy as he got through the eighth without any damage.

With a chance to tack on some insurance runs against Buck Farmer, a pair of singles from Suzuki and Bellinger set the Cubs offense up, only to have Morel ground into a crucial double play. All wasn't lost for the Cubs as Happ and Swanson both walked intentionally to load the bases, only to have David Bote fly out to the warning track to end the threat. Anytime you waste bases-loaded opportunities late in the game, those chances tend to haunt you, but not in this one, as Hector Neris came in to notch his first 1,2,3 inning in a save opportunity to deliver a 4-2 Cubs win.

Suzuki paced the Cubs with three hits, raising his average to .272, with Bellinger and Swanson adding two. Chicago will now have the day off on Monday before beginning their road trip in Tampa Bay on Tuesday.

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