CHICAGO -- The flags atop the historic center-field scoreboard at Wrigley Field were stretched out straight toward the street on Tuesday night thanks to a 20-mph wind from the southwest, so it's no surprise that the Cubs and Reds combined for seven home runs.It's probably also no surprise to anyone
CHICAGO -- The flags atop the historic center-field scoreboard at Wrigley Field were stretched out straight toward the street on Tuesday night thanks to a 20-mph wind from the southwest, so it's no surprise that the Cubs and Reds combined for seven home runs.
It's probably also no surprise to anyone who's watched the National League Central rivals play the last few years that the Cubs outslugged the Reds en route to a 9-5 victory in the opener of a three-game series.
The Cubs, who hit a season-high four homers, have gone deep in seven straight games against the Reds dating back to Sept. 21 of last season. Since Sept. 30, 2015, the Cubs have had at least one homer against the Reds in a remarkable 24 of 25 games -- for a total of 55 long balls.
If the Reds are indeed going to contend in the division this season, keeping the Cubs from going deep so often might be a good place to start.
"If you have an answer on how to keep them in the ballpark," manager Bryan Price said, "I'm all ears."
Of course, it's easier said than done, but the early-season numbers point out that limiting the home runs is a key for an improving Reds pitching staff. In games where the Reds allow no more than one homer, they are 14-6. When they allow two or more, the record is 5-13. The four homers allowed were a season high.
Despite his tongue-in-cheek answer of being open to suggestions, curtailing the gopher ball is a topic that Price and his staff have thought a lot about.
"The thing that we talk about is making the pitches we know our guys can make and attacking to our pitchers' strengths and making sure we know the weaknesses of the hitters," he said.
"When you transition from a group of older, more experienced group of pitchers to a younger bunch, you're gonna be vulnerable to the base on balls and the home run. And when you get a little wiser, you understand how to command the zone a little bit and the importance of not just getting the ball down but when you're going inside, getting it all the way in there."
That's the key: Being precise with the pitch.
"It's not just a matter of getting the ball down in the zone or throwing sinkers," Price said. "If it were that easy, we wouldn't give up any home runs. But it isn't as easy as we'd like to make it."
Tuesday's starter, veteran Bronson Arroyo, can attest to that. He gave up three runs in the first inning after Zack Cozart hit a solo homer, and that ensured the Reds would be fighting an uphill battle all night, despite getting blasts from Tucker Barnhart and Joey Votto. Arroyo allowed two homers and managed to get through five innings.
"After that first inning, I could have kind of folded the tent early and got out of the game much quicker than it was," he said. "The bullpen's been used a lot lately. After the 17-inning game [May 12, against the Giants], I don't think anybody's feeling fantastic out there.
"We still had our chances, but they got us tonight."
John Jackson is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago.