CINCINNATI -- Sandwiched between two series with the surging Dodgers, the series in Cincinnati the Cubs are currently playing was not supposed to be this much of a problem.Instead, what originally looked like an "easier" part of the Cubs schedule has given them fits, and on Saturday, they lost for
CINCINNATI -- Sandwiched between two series with the surging Dodgers, the series in Cincinnati the Cubs are currently playing was not supposed to be this much of a problem.
Instead, what originally looked like an "easier" part of the Cubs schedule has given them fits, and on Saturday, they lost for a third time in a row to the Reds, this time in landslide fashion, 11-2.
A loss on Sunday will mark the first four-game sweep by the Reds over the Cubs since April 1983 -- a series that was also played in Cincinnati.
"They definitely have played better, Cincinnati has," manager Joe Maddon said. "They deserved to win all three. We have to do a better job, obviously. Our pitching was in disarray today, and they took advantage of it."
The Cubs, who will travel to Los Angeles after Sunday's game for their second series with the Dodgers in a week and a half, knew going into the game they were going to need contributions from several bullpen arms. Luke Farrell, making a spot start, had reached 56 pitches when he was lifted with two outs in the third, leaving the rest to the relief corps.
Farrell yielded three runs, including a home run to Tucker Barnhart in the opening frame.
"They have some guys that can really swing the bat," Farrell said. "We had a good plan, a good approach going into it. They can be ultra-aggressive at times. You have to pick and choose your spots, especially with first-pitch fastballs. Barnhart got to one, but besides that, I made some pitches when I needed to."
Maddon turned to left-handed reliever Brian Duensing to make his first appearance in five days, and that's when the game got out of hand.
Scooter Gennett doubled and scored on Eugenio Suarez's base hit, and a walk by Jesse Winker and an infield hit by Adam Duvall loaded the bases for Reds starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, who cleared the bases with his first career homer.
The last Reds pitcher to hit a grand slam was Bob Purkey, on Aug. 1, 1959. Coincidentally, that homer was also against the Cubs.
The Reds have hit four grand slams in the past 10 days. The Cubs, meanwhile, have dropped five of their past seven games and have scored 16 runs during that time period.
"It's tough," Anthony Rizzo said. "One of the parts of the season when it's obviously not going our way. We're not clicking. We have to score more runs. [The Reds] can hit, we know that. Our pitchers are definitely competing and battling. Our offense has just fallen short."
Catcher Chris Gimenez finished out the game, pitching the eighth for the Cubs. Joey Votto lifted a three-run homer to right-center, adding to the Reds' pile-on.
The game also featured an ejection -- Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde was tossed in the fourth inning by home-plate umpire Greg Gibson.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
A botched relay in the third contributed to the Reds' big inning. Jason Heyward fielded Gennett's double to right off the wall and, with Votto rounding third, missed the first cutoff man. Addison Russell then airmailed the throw home, missing catcher Willson Contreras by several feet.
"That was a big play," Maddon said. "Votto was out, he would have been way out. Even though Jason missed the first part of it -- and I think Addison may have thought he had less time because of that, but he had plenty of time. We are normally really good at [relays]."
ZASTRYZNY LEAVES WITH BACK TIGHTNESS
Reliever Rob Zastryzny left his outing in the sixth with left side tightness, but it doesn't appear to be anything that will hinder him moving forward.
"I was trying to help the bullpen out -- we were short tonight," he said. "I felt fine, it just tightened up a little."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The game wasn't without Cubs highlights. Thomas La Stella, who received a rare start at third base, channeled his inner Javier Baez in the first inning, diving head-first into the stands and nabbing a Votto popup.
La Stella tracked the ball to the stands along the third-base line and was running out of room, which led to the dive, the retrieval and a stunned look from Votto. More >
HE SAID IT
"The Reds have been playing really well, and they're a good team. Their record doesn't show it, but they're a good team. They have good players over there. They've taken it to us and they've beat us. We can hang our heads tomorrow, or we can come out and play with some fire." -- Rizzo
The Reds and Cubs wrap up their four-game set in Cincinnati on Sunday at 12:10 p.m. CT. Right-hander Tyler Chatwood (3-5, 3.95) will face the Reds for the second time this year seeking his first win since May 11. The righty last faced the Reds on April 2 in Cincinnati, allowing one earned run over six frames. Chatwood last pitched on Tuesday, when he took a no-decision in the first game of a doubleheader with the Dodgers. The Reds will counter with righty Sal Romano (4-7, 5.18), who has yielded one earned run over his past two outings, totaling 15 innings.
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.