CHICAGO -- The Reds are trying to make one last push into being buyers as they approach Friday’s Trade Deadline.
With a 51-48 record entering Monday that had the club 6 1/2 games behind the National League Central-leading Brewers and 5 1/2 games behind the Padres for the second NL Wild Card spot, Cincinnati needs more than a few positives to come out of its four-game set in Chicago. The difference between being buyers and sellers at the Deadline could easily come down to picking up a few wins on the road against the Cubs, but the Reds started things off on the wrong foot in a 6-5 loss at Wrigley Field.
“That, for us, as a player, as a coach, anyone in this clubhouse -- that’s too much to think about,” Cincinnati manager David Bell said about pressure on the club to win as the Deadline nears. “We just keep playing, and we have a long way to go. That would be adding too much. Now, everyone is human and we all know what this week is and potentially what could happen and all that, but it’s certainly not something that we try to add. We try to avoid thinking about that, because really, just focusing on winning games is going to take care of everything we need to do.”
For most of the game, the Reds had an answer for just about everything the Cubs threw their way.
When Chicago took an early 2-0 lead on first baseman Anthony Rizzo’s two-run shot off Wade Miley in the first, Cincinnati responded with a run in the second and third innings on a solo shot and a sacrifice fly from Joey Votto.
When the Cubs went back up with a run in the third, the Reds responded once again with a home run from Kyle Farmer in the fourth and two more runs in the fifth to go up, 5-3.
And when Chicago threatened by loading the bases against Miley in the bottom of the frame, Tony Santillan stepped in out of the bullpen to induce an inning-ending double play that helped keep Cincinnati ahead for the next three innings.
“Tonight, we put him into a situation that was very important, and he came through,” Bell said. “That would have been the key, really, to the game to get us to the eighth there, and he certainly did his part. And I think it’s just great for his growth. We’re absolutely going to need him, and he’s really going to help our bullpen moving forward.”
However, it was a pair of missed opportunities late that ultimately decided the game.
The Reds loaded the bases with nobody out against Cubs reliever Keegan Thompson in the eighth, looking to add to a 5-4 lead. The advantage didn’t end up growing, though, as Tucker Barnhart and Jonathan India sandwiched strikeouts around a Max Schrock flyout to keep the lead at one run. In the bottom of the inning, Josh Osich allowed a game-tying homer to Cubs catcher Willson Contreras.
And after once again failing to do damage with the first two runners on base against Chicago closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth, the Cubs walked it off on a pinch-hit RBI single by Javier Báez, turning a much-needed Reds victory into a loss that pushes them further away from buying when the Deadline rolls around.
“All the games going forward are going to be important, especially being what are we, seven games back?” Votto said. “That’s a number of games. We have to play really good ball going forward and need to accumulate a lot of wins. Of course, when you’re ahead in a game and you come up short, you look back at lots of what-if scenarios, for sure.”
“That's baseball, man. Games happen like this all the time,” Miley said. “Sucks that we were on the losing end of it. Slow game, just kind of -- I don't know. Did we have opportunities? Yeah, but those guys came in and did a great job, pitching their way out, as well as we did sometimes later on in the game. Just their night.”