CINCINNATI -- For six innings on Sunday at Great American Ball Park, the Cubs had reason to believe they would salvage one game in Cincinnati and head to Los Angeles having avoided a dreaded four-game sweep at the hands of the Reds.
The seventh inning changed all of that, and instead of coasting to a semi-easy win, the Cubs dropped a fourth straight contest to their division foes, 8-6, marking the first time they were swept by the Reds in a four-game series since 1983.
The Reds strung together five consecutive hits in the seventh and sent eight men to the plate before they recorded their first out. Cubs lefty Mike Montgomery yielded three consecutive hits -- a leadoff single to Scooter Gennett, a double to Adam Duvall and a base hit to Jose Peraza that drove in one run -- and was lifted for Pedro Strop, whose 94-mph two-seam offering to pinch-hitter Jesse Winker was deposited into the left-field seats for a three-run homer.
From there, Strop's struggles continued. By the time Winker struck out looking with the bases loaded to end the inning, 13 Reds had made plate appearances.
"I came in there to stop the bleeding and I wasn't able to do it," Strop said. "All the work my team did before to put those runs up there. ... This is a tough one to swallow. Coming down the stretch we weren't playing well. We lost three games and that one, we should have gotten that one, to start a new rhythm."
Strop said he struggled with command of the fastball, which forced him to go to his secondary pitches.
"I was getting behind in the count," Strop said. "I got a little bit too fine when I was ahead in the count. Giving them the opportunity to get into deep counts, I think that's what got me right there."
The Reds' seventh-inning comeback tarnished a fine outing by Montgomery, starting in place of Tyler Chatwood. The Cubs lefty held the Reds to one run through the first six frames, before the Reds opened the seventh with three straight hits.
"They put some good swings on it," Montgomery said. "I wanted to attack. I really didn't want to put guys on base and walk guys. They were able to hit it where we weren't."
Cubs manager Joe Maddon opted to call for a fresh arm rather than leave Montgomery in, and that's when the inning got out of hand.
"[Montgomery] did his job," Maddon said. "He had pretty much had it at that point. I felt really good about Pedro because he had been off for so long, and he was so fresh. I'm thinking two innings out of him, like [last Tuesday vs. the Dodgers]. It just didn't work out."
Earlier, it looked as though the Cubs' offense -- largely dormant for the first three games -- had contributed enough to give the team a win.
The Cubs tagged Reds righty Sal Romano for five runs over five innings. All five were scored in the fifth frame, highlighted by Anthony Rizzo's 12th homer of the year, a two-run shot that represented his first hit of the series. The homer ended an 0-for-12 streak for the Cubs first baseman.
After winning 17 of 21 games at Great American Ball Park from the start of 2015 through April 22, 2017, the Cubs are 6-10 in games played in Cincinnati since.
"It's very impressive what their lefties do against [left-handed pitchers]," Maddon said. "They had an impressive four games."
Rizzo has 25 career home runs against the Reds, the fourth most among active players. He trails Jose Pujols (47), Ryan Braun (41) and Andrew McCutchen (29).
HE SAID IT
"You don't change. You still eat, you still sleep, you still pet your puppy and you move on." -- Maddon, pointing to the stars and stripes bib overalls he was planning to wear on the charter flight to Los Angeles. The coaching staff was to join him in the theme-oriented dress code, while the players were going to wear their regular garb
The Cubs will call up right-hander Duane Underwood Jr. to start the opener with the Dodgers on Monday at 9:10 p.m. CT at Dodger Stadium. Underwood, the club's second-round pick in the 2012 Draft and 29th-best prospect per MLB Pipeline, is 3-7 with a 4.27 ERA over 14 games (13 starts) this year for Triple-A Iowa, allowing 34 earned runs over 71 2/3 innings with 20 walks and 60 strikeouts. His start Monday will be his Major League debut. The Dodgers will counter with right-hander Kenta Maeda (4-4, 3.84).