"We had a good run, six-game win streak," Chicago starter Mike Montgomery said. "We lose one and we just move on."
All six of the Cubs' wins were the come-from-behind variety, but they couldn't muster much against Mahle and an 18-mph pitcher-friendly northerly wind.
The Cubs have lost seven of 10 games against the Reds this season, including a four-game sweep at Great American Ball Park from June 21-24, which Chicago manager Joe Maddon dubbed "Hurricane Cincinnati." Friday was the Reds' first game at Wrigley Field this season. The Cubs are 19-19 so far versus the National League Central.
"You look at the numbers on the stat sheet and they're pretty good up and down, and the bullpens, too," Maddon said of the division's pitching staffs. "[The Reds'] bullpen is a lot better than it had been, Milwaukee, ourselves, etc. The pitching is good in this division. But so is the offense. It's turned out to be a tough division.
"It's very strong, which is good. I want that. I want us to play in what's hopefully considered the best [division] in baseball. That should bring out the best in your players on a nightly basis."
Montgomery, continuing to fill in for the injured Yu Darvish, took the loss, serving up three runs over five innings. He didn't get the offensive support the Cubs have shown lately. They had scored at least five runs in their last eight games.
"I'm proud of the way I battled, but it's definitely not the way I want to throw the ball," Montgomery said. "Credit to them. They have a good lineup and made it challenging as well."
The Cubs got on the scoreboard in the fifth when Willson Contreras flared a ball over first baseman Joey Votto and hustled to second for a double. After advancing to third on a groundout, he scored on Albert Almora Jr.'s fielder's choice with runners at the corners. Ben Zobrist added a sacrifice fly in the eighth, driving in Javier Baez, who had singled.
"I thought we had great at-bats," Maddon said. "We didn't score a lot of runs, but they made some plays."
This series features the top two hitters in the NL in Scooter Gennett and Almora. Both finished the game batting .328. Almora said he isn't checking the scoreboard after each at-bat to see who's in the lead.
"We're not even at the All-Star break," Almora said. "He's having a great year. We're just trying to get him off the bags as much as they're trying to get us out."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Trailing 3-1 with one out in the Cubs' eighth, Baez singled off Michael Lorenzen, who was pulled for Kyle Crockett. Anthony Rizzo greeted the lefty with a single, advancing Baez to third. Crockett was lifted for Raisel Iglesias, who got Zobrist to fly to center, scoring Baez on a sacrifice fly. The Cubs lead the Majors with 161 runs scored in the seventh inning or later.
The Cubs don't feel they're ever out of a game.
"We like to be in the games," Almora said. "We like to have fight. [Being behind] doesn't bother us at all."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS Jason Heyward flashed his Gold Glove in the Reds' sixth. With two outs and two on, Jose Peraza lined the ball into the right-center gap, but Heyward made a great diving catch to snare it. According to Statcast™, it was a four-star catch (27 percent catch probability), with Heyward covering 76 feet in 4.5 seconds to get to the ball. Peraza applauded the effort.
"Amazing," said the Reds' Billy Hamilton, who knows a thing or two about great catches. "He's one of those guys you see amazing plays all the time. He's a guy we say in the dugout, if you hit it in right field, there's a Gold Glover out there. It's a place you don't want to hit the ball to. Even though it went against [Peraza], I feel like it's a nice play. I know my teammate doesn't like that he got the ball caught, but you've got to give credit where credit is due. It's one of the nicest catches I've seen."
Added Almora: "It happened so quick. Obviously, he's a special defender, special person. That was awesome. When I saw the ball in the air, I knew he was going to make the catch. Absolutely. There's no doubt. Not a lot of balls fall out there. A day like today, when the wind is blowing in, you know balls that are hit well are going to die. He was there to get it."
HE SAID IT "Look where we're at -- we're in a good spot and right there. We have what we feel like is the best baseball to be played." -- Montgomery, when asked to assess where the Cubs are heading toward the All-Star break
UP NEXT Tyler Chatwood will start on Saturday, his second outing since coming off the paternity list. In his last start, he gave up seven runs over five innings against the Twins, but the Cubs rallied for a win. He still leads the Majors in walks with 66 free passes over 73 1/3 innings. The Reds will counter with Matt Harvey. First pitch from Wrigley Field is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT.