Reds win 7th straight, jump Cubs for 2nd place in NL Central

June 9th, 2024

The Reds clinched a series victory with a 4-3 win on Saturday afternoon over the Cubs, moving past Chicago for sole possession of second place in the NL Central and extending their winning streak to seven games.

“We got a really good lineup. The guys are throwing the ball the right way,” said , who homered for Cincinnati in the first inning. “We had some ups and downs, but right now we’re on a good path, for sure.”

Cincinnati got an effective, albeit inefficient, start from , who allowed nine runners to reach base -- including a season-high four walks -- but ultimately surrendered just one run through five innings.

“He battled through it. That’s what it’s all about. He should almost feel better about that start than any start he’s had all year, because it’s just not easy what he did,” Reds manager David Bell said. “I even made the mistake of having somebody up [in the bullpen] early, because I could kind of sense it was a little bit more difficult for him today. And to his credit, he just continued to make pitches and compete.”

Leaving runners on base was a theme for the Cubs, particularly against Abbott. Chicago finished 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position, including 1-for-8 with Abbott on the mound. The Cubs left 12 runners on base over the course of the game -- compared to the Reds’ three -- with eight of those coming against Abbott.

“[It was] a grind. I didn’t have it command wise. But somehow with the defense and with everybody behind you, I was able to grind out five,” Abbott said. “That’s the job of really any starting pitcher, whether it’s myself, Frankie [Montas] or anybody else. … Just keep throwing strikes, keep going out there as long as you can and then hand it off to the bullpen -- hopefully with the lead -- and then they can hold it from there.”

The Reds’ offensive efforts were led by TJ Friedl, whose two-run shot off a Ben Brown knuckle-curve in the third inning gave Cincy a lead it would never relinquish. Friedl finished with three of his team’s four RBIs, with the only exception being Candelario’s solo shot in the first.

“I’m getting better. I’m getting better little by little,” said Candelario. “The more reps that I have, the better I’m going to be as a switch-hitter.”

The final outcome didn’t come without a bit of drama. With Alexis Díaz having thrown two innings and a combined 42 pitches over the series’ first two games on Thursday and Friday, the Reds chose to bring in Lucas Sims to begin the ninth inning with a one-run lead. Sims walked leadoff batter Christopher Morel before allowing a single to Dansby Swanson, putting the Cubs in a first-and-third situation with one out and the tying run 90 feet away.

But Sims was replaced by , and the threat was put to bed soon after. The 36-year-old veteran retired Ian Happ and Mike Tauchman to seal the game, earning his first save since Sept. 22, 2019.

Wilson’s first batter faced was a particularly crucial moment, as catcher Tyler Stephenson made a sliding catch on a Happ popup in foul territory to secure the second out, keeping the tying run on third.

“That was one of the best plays I’ve seen all year,” Bell said.

The victory was a nice change of pace for the Reds regarding their luck in close contests. Cincinnati entered the day 3-11 in one-run games, the worst in MLB. But of the team’s four one-run wins this season, three have come against the Cubs since May 31.

As a result, the Reds earned their seventh consecutive win, their longest streak since a memorable run of 12 in a row in June 2023. Last year’s team came up just short of a Wild Card spot, finishing two games behind the Marlins. This year’s team, despite not having held a winning record since they were 16-15 entering play on May 3, has bigger plans.

“You can easily get caught up with [the win streak] if you think about it too much. You just have to go game by game at this rate,” Abbott said. “Any win -- especially with what happened last year, missing [the playoffs] -- whenever you can get it is huge. And we know that. So piling them together in streaks like this hopefully can account for what’s to come later.”