Cubs pile on runs late in slugfest versus Reds
|Tuesday, August 22, 2017, 11:44 PM- -|
CINCINNATI – Scoring 10 runs in the second half of the game, the Chicago Cubs made the most of a golden opportunity gleaned from a costly injury that the Cincinnati Reds paid the price for on Tuesday night. Winning 13-9 in a matchup that featured double-digit hit totals for both teams, the Cubs came out on top thanks to quality performances from some of their most pivotal batters and lackluster performances from opposing relief pitchers. Shrugging off a slow start at the plate, the Cubs went on to experience on one of their most successful nights on the offensive end this season, earning a hard-fought victory as a result.
Unsurprisingly, Cubs starting pitcher John Lackey struggled in the early goings, which has been a constant theme throughout Lackey's 2017 showing. Despite going 5-0 in his last six starts, Lackey was shaky tonight, resembling the pre-All-Star break Lackey that was so untrustworthy on the mound. Giving up nine hits and six runs in five innings pitched, Lackey was definitely bailed out by his teammates on the offensive end.
The Reds jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, scoring a run in each of the first three innings. Center fielder Billy Hamilton led off the bottom of the first with a single and proceeded to collect his MLB-leading 52nd stolen base. Later on in the frame, the speedy Hamilton scored on a wild pitch from a flustered Lackey, who continued to struggle in the second inning. It was then that Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart put Cincy up 2-0 on an RBI double to right. Following a solo shot off the bat of Cincinnati second baseman Scooter Gennett in the third, the Reds led by a commanding three-run margin over a Cubs team struggling to manufacture runs.
Facing off against Reds ace Homer Bailey, Chicago had no luck through three innings at the dish, but the North Siders caught a break when Bailey was forced to exit his promising start after injuring his leg while running out a ground ball in the bottom of the fourth. Thereafter, the Cubs tagged Reds reliever Kevin Shackelford for three runs in the fifth, with the rookie reliever walking three and throwing a wild pitch in the process.
Lackey incited the productive inning by drawing a walk and later scoring the Cubs' first run on a sacrifice fly by third baseman Kris Bryant. Thereafter, first baseman Anthony Rizzo drove in a run on a fielder's choice grounder, and he scored, as well, at the end of the inning on a single from right fielder Jason Heyward. J-Hey had himself quite the game, as he went 3-5 with two RBI and one run scored.
Cincinnati shifted the momentum back in its favor in the top of the sixth, though, as third baseman Eugenio Suarez clubbed a three-run home run to left, putting the Reds ahead by three runs again. Afterward, fiery Chicago second baseman Javier Baez single-handedly cut into that lead in the sixth, as he was able to reach first on an infield single and next take second on a wild pitch. Then, Baez riskily attempted to tag up and make it to third base on a liner that was caught by Hamilton in center field. Fortunately for the Cubs, Hamilton's throw was far off of the mark, enabling Baez to score on the error.
Baez, who went 2-5 and increased his 2017 RBI total to 61 on the night, did not stop there in terms of offensive production, with the spark plug infielder hitting a two-run bloop single in the seventh that knotted the game up at six runs apiece. In the following at-bat, Heyward and Baez came in to score on a double hit toward the wall in center by pinch hitter Ben Zobrist.
Leading for the first time in the game at that point, the Cubs used the perfectly-timed combination of hot hitting and solid relief pitching to take control of the game, as Chicago added five more runs to the board in an eighth inning rife with small ball. Reds reliever Blake Wood was out of sorts for the entirety of his one-inning appearance, not collecting an out until the seventh batter of the frame. After walking three consecutive batters to begin the eighth, Wood proceeded to give up three straight RBI singles to center fielder Ian Happ, catcher Alex Avila and Heyward, respectively, which pushed the Cubs' lead to five runs.
Thanks to a wild pitch by Wood and an RBI groundout by Zobrist, the Cubs ended the top half of the eighth leading 13-6, a shocking score, considering the slow start for Chicago. The offensive bonanza did not end there, though, as the Reds added three runs on two essentially meaningless home runs in the ninth. Coming off of seldom-used Cubs reliever Felix Pena, the solo shot by pinch hitter Jesse Winker and the two-run shot by Suarez, his second long ball of the night, gave the Reds a gaudy home run total of four for the game and also provided them with 13 hits, the exact same amount accrued by the Cubs.
The ultimate difference-makers in the game proved to be the nine walks earned by the Cubs and the persistent struggles with command experienced by the Reds' bullpen on the evening. If not for Bailey's early departure, the Cubs would have almost certainly not come even remotely close to scoring 13 runs, but the North Siders definitely made the most of their opportunity to do so. In addition to Heyward, Rizzo, who went 2-3 with two walks and three runs scored, and Avila, who had a solid showing for the second straight game, were the key cogs at the plate for the Cubs.
On the pitching end, relievers Brian Duensing, Hector Rondon and Carl Edwards, Jr., held their own on the back end, with Rondon receiving a win and Edwards being granted a hold. Reds reliever Wandy Peralta, who gave up the two-run double to Zobrist in the seventh, was named the game's loser, as the Reds fell to 53-73 while the Cubs improved to 67-57.
The National League Central foes will have a hard time reciprocating Tuesday's offensive fireworks in tomorrow's contest, which will serve as the second installment of the three-game affair in the Queen City, but the momentum accrued from the 24-run, 26-hit slugfest could very well carry over and create more offensive excitement. Having won four straight, the hot-hitting Cubs will be aiming to secure a series victory as they take on the Reds at the Great American Ball Park tomorrow night at 7:10 PM EST.
Four straight wins! pic.twitter.com/A1VKuT31UG— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 23, 2017