Kamil Krzaczynski - USA Today Sports
Kamil Krzaczynski - USA Today Sports

Thompson dominates early but Reds top Cubs


by - Senior Writer -

CHICAGO - In a matchup that featured a pair of aces in Luis Castillo from the Cincinnati Reds (26-47) and Keegan Thompson of the Chicago Cubs (28-46), fans got exactly what they expected. Through five innings at Wrigley Field on Tuesday, there was no score in the game, but these two right-handers were on top of their game as they combined to strike out 19 hitters between the two of them.

For Thompson, that makes three great starts in a row for him after suffering a pair of clunkers as it appears he has figured things out. On the other hand, Castillo has been one of the best pitchers in the National League and continues to deliver every five days. There is a reason his name is mentioned in trade talks, and after allowing no runs on five hits to go with 11 strikeouts in six innings, his value got better.

Even with the score tied through five, it was the Reds rallying in the game's later stages, picking up five runs across the sixth and seventh inning. Four of those runs were charged to Thompson, but with Rowan Wick allowing a three-run shot, it is hard to say he had a bad outing. That homer proved to be the difference as the Cubs had their chances late, but couldn't finish the job in a 5-3 defeat.

Right from the opening pitch, you could see it would be a long night for hitters as both pitchers were on top of their game. Minimal hits and minimal baserunners made things easy, but the Cubs wasted an opportunity to strike first in the third. After Alfonso Rivas and David Bote singled to open that frame, Castillo buckled down to strike out the next three and end the inning.

That started a string of six consecutive strikeouts for the right-hander as he was settling in and looking like his 2019 self again. It took six innings for someone to cash in, and that someone was the Reds as they broke through first. With Aramis Garcia leading the inning off with a single, he came home on the Brandon Drury double to make things 1-0. Donovan Solano followed that up with a ground-rule double of his own to bring in another run before Thompson got out of the inning without further damage.

Looking to answer in the bottom of the sixth, the Cubs had their best opportunity of the night with Rafael Ortega and Willson Contreras taking walks to lead things off before the Nico Hoerner single loaded the bases with two down. As has been the case most of the season, the Cubs can't get that hit when it matters and were kept off the board once again.

As if his sixth inning wasn't bad enough, Thompson ran into more trouble in the seventh, allowing one-out singles to Albert Almora Jr and Nick Senzel. That signaled the call to the bullpen, where Wick struck out the first hitter he faced before allowing a Jonathan India blast to put the Reds up 5-0. Wick was far from out of trouble, allowing a single to Drury followed by a Solano double as Brandon Hughes was now on to finish things off.

A walk to Joey Votto would load the bases, but Hughes did his job picking up an inning ending strikeout to keep things at 5-0. Despite the large deficit on the scoreboard, the Cubs never felt they were out of it as the Reds have the worst ERA in baseball. Much of that has to do with their bullpen, who struggled from the jump in the seventh inning.

Joel Kuhnel was on to work after the amazing outing from Castillo and was greeted by a Rivas single and then walked Bote to put two on with no outs. Several pitches later saw Christopher Morel drive one to the outfield where Almora Jr and Senzel couldn't get on the same page as the ball dropped in for a double.

That double was followed by an Ortega RBI groundout and Contreras single, and just like that, the Cubs were within 5-3. Once again, the Cubs let a great opportunity go to waste as another lack of clutch hitting saw them strand two runners while still trailing. Despite allowing three baserunners in his two innings, Mark Leiter Jr was impressive as he struck out the side in the eighth and finished with four punchouts.

Trailing by two and down to their last outs, Ortega did what he needed to keep the game alive as his double brought the tying run to the plate. What looked like a single off the bat of Contreras ended up a lineup with Happ ending the game on a lazy pop-out that gave the Reds a 5-3 win. Hoerner continues his recent hot streak with three more hits as his average has risen to .304. Contreras and Rivas added two hits as the Cubs had 10 hits in the game.

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