Cubs fall to fourth place after loss to Reds
Katie Stratman - USA Today Sports

Cubs fall to fourth place after loss to Reds

by - Senior Writer -

CINCINNATI — When will this nightmare end? The Chicago Cubs (31-34) need to answer this question as they have fallen to a season-low three games under .500. Many felt this team could contend for a division title this season, and here we are nearly midway through the season, and this team is sitting in fourth place and is closer to last place than first place.

This wasn't the vision when they brought in Craig Counsell to become the highest-paid MLB Manager in history. So far, his first year in Chicago hasn't gone as planned, and many fans are thinking maybe David Ross wasn't the issue; instead, the way this team is constructed is the issue. Looking to finally pick up a win against the Cincinnati Reds (32-33) at the Great American Ballpark, the Cubs turned to their young swingman Ben Brown as he looked to continue his strong run of starts.

For the most part, Brown has been as good as advertised this season, but the long ball has given him trouble lately, which continued to be the case in this one. He served up two homers in four innings, leading to three of the Reds' four runs. That is all he would last, as he struck out three in his four innings, allowing those three runs.

He turned things over to Jordan Wicks, who was not only returning to the team for the first time in over a month but also making his first career relief appearance. Not knowing what to expect, Wicks was very good allowing just one run in 3 1/3, but that run was ultimately the deciding factor in the Reds 4-3 win.

A big reason the Reds have surged into second place is their recent winning streak, which has been anchored by strong starting pitching. Andrew Abbott is a prime example of that, as he has erased a rough start to the season with a strong showing on the mound. Abbott only lasted five innings, as command was an issue, but he found a way to limit the damage, holding the Cubs to five hits and allowing one run.

He turned things over to a Reds bullpen that has been nothing short of impressive all series long. They allowed one run in four innings but did have to pitch around plenty of trouble. That alone helped keep the Cubs offense in check as the Reds have taken the first three from the Cubs this weekend and are now 5-1 against them this season.

In a very interesting lineup that Counsell drew up for this game, the Cubs were looking for any spark to get things going again. Perhaps a first-inning RBI double off the bat of Dansby Swanson would be that spark as he gave the Cubs an early 1-0 lead. That would be the only run of the game for the Cubs off of Abbott as the former Cub Jeimer Candelario wasted no time tying things back up as he took Brown deep in the bottom of the first to make things 1-1.

With David Bote striking for a leadoff double to begin the second, the Cubs offense was in business again only to have the offense stall in the end. The same can be said about the third, with Cody Bellinger picking up a one-out single before advancing to scoring position on a walk, but once again, the Cubs offense couldn't come through with a big hit.

When you look at big hits, the Reds had no trouble coming away with big hits as they picked up their second big hit in the bottom of the third. After walking Jonathan India to start the inning, Brown surrendered his second homer of the game to TJ Friedl, and just like that, it was a 3-1 Reds lead. Since returning from his injury, Friedl has been red hot at the plate, and it's no secret that the Cincinnati offense is starting to find their stride again.

At some point, this team has to stop wasting scoring chances as they let another opportunity go by in the fifth. This time, Swanson came away with a two-out double, followed by an Ian Happ walk. Once again, their inability to deliver a clutch hit proved costly as Abbott got through the fifth without further damage to keep the Reds in front 3-1.

Cincinnati would then add to their lead off Wicks in the fifth and used some small ball to do so. With India starting things off with a single before advancing to second on an error, the Will Benson bunt moved him to third, setting the offense up. Friedl would bring home the Reds final run with an RBI groundout, which would go down as the winning run in this one.

It took the Cubs offense long enough, but once the Reds bullpen entered the game, they finally broke through again. Bote started things off with a single as he led the Cubs with three hits in the game. Two batters later saw Yan Gomes come through with a rare hit as his double brought home Bote to pull the Cubs within 4-2.

Continuing to battle back in the eighth, it was Bote again playing catalyst as his one-out single gave the Cubs another baserunner with the tying run coming to the plate in Michael Busch. Although Busch is still searching for his first homer in a while, he is starting to make solid contact again and uses a double to put a pair of runners in scoring position with one down. Pete Crow-Armstrong managed to make things 4-3 with an RBI groundout, but this was another missed opportunity for this team as they continued to trail.

Then came the ninth inning when Christopher Morel led the ninth off with a walk against Lucas Sims before a one-out single by Swanson moved the tying run into scoring position. That forced David Bell to return to his bullpen, and he called on Justin Wilson to try to shut the door. That he did as he retired both hitters he faced to seal the series victory for the Reds 4-3.

Bote had his best game of the season with a team-high three hits. He was joined by Swanson and his three hits, with Bellinger adding two hits in the loss.

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