Cubs keep 'grinding' despite 9-game skid

Bullpen falters after Hendricks twirls 6 strong innings

July 4th, 2021

CINCINNATI -- There were no fireworks for the Cubs on Sunday. Just more fizzle on the Fourth.

For a second straight day, the Cubs’ offense was unable to back a strong outing from their starting pitcher and a two-run lead, falling for a ninth straight time, 3-2, to the Reds at Great American Ball Park.

Willson Contreras grounded into a 5-4-3 double play with the tying and go-ahead runs on first and second in the ninth to end the game. Amir Garrett, who missed badly with his first six pitches in the ninth, rebounded to earn his sixth save.

The loss dropped the Cubs to .500 on the season (42-42), as they finished their nightmarish 10-game road trip through Los Angeles, Milwaukee and Cincinnati with a 1-9 mark. The trip that began with the historic combined no-hitter at Dodger Stadium ended with the Cubs 1 1/2 games behind the second-place Reds in the NL Central.

The Cubs couldn’t solve the Cincinnati bullpen for a third straight day.

“I think we’re grinding,” Cubs skipper David Ross said. “Guys are giving all their effort. There’s no lack of focus. It’s an inning or two late that doesn’t go our way. … We hit into a couple of double plays that really cost us. We just have to continue to have [good] at-bats. I don’t feel we’re playing bad baseball. Just the execution at the end."

Art Warren recorded the final out of the seventh and eventually earned the win after Contreras singled off Reds starter Wade Miley with two outs. Kris Bryant grounded out to second to end the inning.

Kyle Hendricks continued to serve admirably in his role as staff ace, limiting the Reds to five hits and one run over six innings, striking out five, walking none and perhaps most impressively, keeping the slugging Reds in the park.

Hendricks, who leads the Majors in homers allowed (20), didn’t allow one on a hot, humid day at the bandbox known as Great American Ball Park. It was the third time in his past four outings that Hendricks kept the opponent in the yard.

“Everybody’s talked about it. It almost feels like we have to play the perfect game right now,” Hendricks said. “It’ll turn eventually. It’s one bounce here or there right now.”

The Cubs produced another first-inning threat on Sunday, and this time they didn’t miss as Bryant and Anthony Rizzo connected for singles to left field against the shift. Javier Báez singled to nearly the same spot on the left side, scoring Bryant easily as the Cubs finally had a traditional rally that had eluded them for the better part of the first two games.

With one out in the second, Jake Marisnick drilled Wade Miley's fastball just beyond the reach of Tyler Naquin in right-center for a triple. Just when it looked like Marisnick’s hit would go to waste after an Ian Happ strikeout for the second out, Hendricks, coming in with a .080 batting average in 2021, grounded a seeing-eye single up the middle to score Marisnick for a 2-0 lead.

“It’s been a grind for us but you’re not going to see guys hanging their heads,” Marisnick said. “It sucks, but we have to keep working.”

The only scoreboard damage the Reds could do against Hendricks was a Tucker Barnhart double that plated Kyle Farmer for Cincinnati’s first run in the second.

“He mixed and matched his stuff on such a hot day,” Ross said of Hendricks’ outing. “He had a phenomenal day.”

But after Hendricks came out for a pinch-hitter in the seventh, Dan Winkler couldn’t preserve the lead, allowing the first three batters to reach in the seventh. Then, following a forceout at home on Tyler Stephenson’s grounder to third, Winkler drilled Jonathan India in the elbow to force home Farmer with the tying run.

With lefty Andrew Chafin brought in to face Jesse Winker, the Reds’ leader in homers (19) grounded to the right side, but the Cubs could only get the force at second. Pinch-runner Mike Freeman scored to make it 3-2.