Steele still searching for first win as Cubs fall to Reds
Kamil Krzaczynski - USA Today Sports

Steele still searching for first win as Cubs fall to Reds

by - Senior Writer -

CINCINNATI - Don't look now, but the Cincinnati Reds (31-33) have surged into a second-place tie with the Chicago Cubs (31-33). A big reason for that is having won 11 of their last 15 games, including going 4-1 against the Cubs so far this season. This was one of those stretches talked about a few weeks ago where the Cubs had an opportunity to rip off as many wins as possible.

The problem is now their lack of overall consistency, and it may be time to realize that this team isn't as good as many thought it would be. Looking to bounce back after dropping their series opener at the Great American Ballpark on Thursday, the Cubs turned to their ace Justin Steele as he took the ball against Nick Lodolo.

It's hard to fathom that Steele is winless so far this season, but going back to last season, the Cubs have lost his last 12 starts, with his last win coming in early September. Throw in that Cincinnati is one of those teams that sees the ball very well off of him, and this was going to be a battle.

As expected, this was a battle as Steele gave the Cubs all they could've asked for, going seven innings, striking out seven, and allowing three runs. Usually, that would be good enough to get the win, but on this night, Lodolo was a little bit better as he allowed just one run in six strong innings as the Cubs found their ninth-inning rally coming up short in the 3-2 Reds win.

Steele couldn't have asked for a better start to his outing, retiring the Reds in order through three innings with four strikeouts as the Reds were searching for answers offensively. The same can be said for the Cubs and Lodolo, although the Cubs did have a chance to strike first in the first inning after putting a pair of runners on base, only to come away empty.

All of the damage against Steele came in the fourth inning, and ironically, it happened with two outs. With Elly De La Cruz working a lead-off walk, Steele was on the verge of escaping trouble, only to have a wild pitch on strike, which allowed De La Cruz to move up while also putting another runner on base. That proved extremely costly in the end as Tyler Stephenson ended the shutout bid with an RBI double, and just like that, this was a 2-0 Reds lead.

Not to be outdone, the Cubs had an opportunity to, at the very least, pull a bit closer in the top of the fifth as a one-out Michael Busch single gave the Cubs a much-needed baserunner. Still standing on first with two outs, the Cubs managed to load the bases off a hit-by a pitch and a walk, only to come away empty again.

It's starting to become comical how much this team struggles to pick up the big hit, as they have been one of the least clutch teams when it comes to finding clutch hits for three years now. Already down two runs in the fifth, Steele found himself in even more trouble with a two-out Blake Dunn double, setting the Reds up again. A few pitches later, it was Stuart Fairchild single that pushed home the winning run as the Reds extended their lead to 3-0.

You knew that by squandering so many chances in the early innings once again, the Cubs would have to figure out a way to score some runs, and Dansby Swanson took it upon himself to put the Cubs on the board with a solo shot in the sixth. That was the game's final run until the ninth, as both bullpens pitched well, although the Cubs only needed Drew Smyly to give them one inning.

Trailing by entering the ninth, things were looking bleak with Alexis Diaz making quick work of the Cubs first two hitters and having them down to their final out. Chicago wouldn't go down without a fight as Busch worked an impressive walk to keep the inning alive with Miguel Amaya coming to the plate.

For most of this season, the Cubs catchers have been some of the worst hitters in the game, but to Amaya's credit, he has started to show some signs of life at the plate. That continued in his ninth inning at bat as he connected for an RBI double off of Diaz to pull the Cubs within 3-2 and the tying run in scoring position. That would be as close as the Cubs would get as Diaz bounced back to strikeout Patrick Wisdom to end the game as the Reds took another game 3-2.

With the loss, Steele fell to 0-3 on the season with a 4.06 ERA and is now 0-7 with a 4.87 ERA dating back to last September. Lodolo improved to 6-2 with the win while posting a 2.92 ERA. The Cubs outhit the Reds 6-5 in the loss, with Busch leading the way with two. Swanson, Amaya, Mike Tauchman, and Christopher Morel added the remaining hits.

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