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Cubs miss on sweep of Reds, stay 2 1/2 up

Two leadoff homers sting Quintana; offense held to a sac fly
September 16, 2018

CHICAGO -- Day 27 unfolded like many of the others for the Cubs during their stretch of 30 straight scheduled games. Once again, Cubs pitchers performed well enough to keep them in the game. It was the lack of run support that ultimately decided their 2-1 loss to the Reds

CHICAGO -- Day 27 unfolded like many of the others for the Cubs during their stretch of 30 straight scheduled games. Once again, Cubs pitchers performed well enough to keep them in the game. It was the lack of run support that ultimately decided their 2-1 loss to the Reds on Sunday at Wrigley Field.
"We've got to do better than one run, somehow," manager Joe Maddon said. "Under the circumstances [of] the three games [this series], we're fortunate to win two. We really are. We scored five runs in three games and won two."
The Cubs missed a chance a three-game sweep in a series in which every outcome was decided by one run, but they remained 2 1/2 games up in the National League Central with 13 games left to play after the second-place Brewers lost to the Pirates.

Left-hander Jose Quintana made two mistakes against the leadoff hitter in the first and fourth innings. Scott Schebler hammered a first-pitch home run on a 92.8-mph fastball that was left up. Phillip Ervin launched a similar pitch for a homer on a 3-2 count to put the Reds up, 2-0.

Willson Contreras crushed a pinch-hit double off the center-field wall to give the Cubs two runners in scoring position with one out in the fifth. Addison Russell had to hold up in case Billy Hamilton caught Contreras' shot and could only advance to third. Next batter Albert Almora Jr. drove Russell home with a sacrifice fly to put the Cubs on the board.
Inconsequential shortcomings are often scrutinized more when a team loses, and the way Contreras initially watched and jogged after connecting with his double was no exception. The outcome of the play wouldn't have changed had Contreras busted it out of the box, because Russell had to stop at third, but it ended up being a much closer play at second than it should have been.
"Horrible. I didn't like that at all," Maddon said. "That will be addressed. The whole team didn't like that."

"What I did was not good for baseball," Contreras said. "I'm embarrassed with myself."
Contreras' lack of hustle irks Cubs
The Cubs remained quiet against Reds starter Luis Castillo until there were two outs in the seventh. Kristopher Bryant pinch-hit for Jaime Garcia -- who relieved Quintana after five innings -- and lined a single to right field.
Almora then singled to center, and as has been the case a number of times this season, the Reds called on lefty Amir Garrett to face Anthony Rizzo. Garrett did his job, striking out Rizzo swinging to end the threat. Rizzo is now 2-for-10 with four strikeouts vs. Garrett in his career, and 1-for-6 in 2018.

"Castillo just had a great game and I can't let those runs score," Garrett said. "With me being a lefty and him being a lefty, it's always going to be intense. Sometimes he's going to get me. Sometimes I'm going to get him. I guess we're just going to keep battling."
Zobrist bikes around in uniform, surprising fans
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
With runners on the corners and two outs in the fourth, Victor Caratini hit a ground ball down the first-base line and past a diving Joey Votto before it clanked off first-base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt. Immediately, Wendelstedt signaled foul ball, though replays appeared to show the ball bouncing in play and crossing over the bag. The play, which would have driven in the Cubs' first run, was non-reviewable because it was ruled foul in the infield.
"That is a perfect example of what our game looks like without instant replay," Maddon said. "That was a big play, but we need to score more than one run."

HE SAID IT
"Obviously you want to go out there and score a ton of runs, but our pitchers picked it up when we needed them. Offense is peaks and valleys and you just ride it out. They're have been plenty of good times this year when the offense has been great and plenty of bad times where it wasn't. You've just got to ride it out and hope the next game is the one where we kind of explode." -- Bryant, on the Cubs' offensive struggles

UP NEXT
Right-hander Kyle Hendricks goes for the Cubs on Monday as they travel to Arizona for the final three contests in a stretch of 30 straight days of scheduled games. Starting pitching has been the Cubs' most consistent phase of the game recently, and Hendricks has been no exception. He has a 1.80 ERA over his last five starts. Lefty Patrick Corbin starts for Arizona, with first pitch set for 8:40 p.m. CT at Chase Field.

Matthew Martell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.