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Reds drop seesaw slugfest at Wrigley

Barnhart, Puig, Dietrich all crank blasts as another tight loss strikes
@m_sheldon
May 25, 2019

CHICAGO -- All five meetings in 2019 between the Reds and Cubs have been tight -- and all decided by two runs or less. On Saturday at Wrigley Field, with a stiff wind blowing towards right field, the Cubs emerged to hand the Reds an 8-6 loss with David Bote’s

CHICAGO -- All five meetings in 2019 between the Reds and Cubs have been tight -- and all decided by two runs or less. On Saturday at Wrigley Field, with a stiff wind blowing towards right field, the Cubs emerged to hand the Reds an 8-6 loss with David Bote’s RBI double in the bottom of the eighth inning against reliever Jared Hughes driving in the go-ahead run.

“It seemed like any ball that got up in the air had a chance to get out,” Reds manager David Bell said after both clubs slugged three home runs.

Box score

Here are four items of note from Saturday’s game:

Not the recent Reds

Players and fans certainly don’t like the Reds’ 23-28 record that has them in last place among National League Central clubs. But no one can deny the club’s effort, as Bell’s players have been in almost every game this season.

On Friday, the Reds trailed 4-0 in the fourth inning, and 5-4 in the ninth, and came away with the 6-5 win. On Saturday, Chicago had a 5-2 lead after the fourth.

“Right to the very end there, you feel like you have a good shot because they continue to compete,” Bell said. “When it comes down to one at-bat, guys are locked into doing everything they can to win a game. That’s all you can do. I’m very happy with all that. There’s no question about the effort or anything. They’re competing and doing what it takes to have chances to win games, and also win games like yesterday.”

The largest margin of defeat for the Reds this season was a 6-0 loss to the Dodgers on May 17, one of only four games lost by five or more runs. There have also been 13 one-run losses and the club’s overall run differential is +24.

Last season, the 67-95 Reds lost about a third of their games by five or more runs (32) and eight games by eight or more runs. Their run differential was minus-123.

"I think we have a really resilient group in this locker room,” Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “We have a team where we feel like we're never out of a game. I think today and yesterday were examples of that. They had a couple more than we did today.

"We're going to make it tough on teams to hold us down and keep us out of the game. Hopefully, keep moving forward."

Barnhart heating up at the plate

Barnhart started the scoring in the second inning with a two-run opposite field home run to left field against Cubs starter Yu Darvish that gave the Reds a 2-0 lead. He finished 3-for-4 and a triple shy of what would have been the first Cincinnati player to hit for the cycle since Eric Davis on June 2, 1989.

In his 43 games this season, Barnhart is batting .195/.296/.347 with five homers and 14 RBIs. His season-long struggle appears to be turning, as he’s hit in five straight games while going 7-for-17 (.412), in addition to having homered in two of his last three games.

“I'm getting there,” Barnhart said. “It's been a weird start to the year. I don't know how to describe it other than weird, getting in the box and not feeling like myself. I'm heading in the right direction. I had some good at-bats today; would have liked for them to come in a win. For me, personally, it was a good day."

Mahle makes mistakes

Reds starter Tyler Mahle gave up six earned runs and nine hits over five innings with one walk, five strikeouts and three home runs allowed. Each of the homers -- Albert Almora Jr’s. in the second inning, Addison Russell’s two-run shot in the fourth and Jason Heyward leading off the fifth, came on fastballs that were left up and over the heart of the plate.

“I made a lot of bad pitches with my fastball,” Mahle said. “Probably should have thrown a curveball or a splitter a little more. I can get groundballs on those. I'm sure the fastball will be fine. I was just missing right over the plate. I got hurt on it every time."

Dietrich and Puig hit screamers

Wind or no wind, Yasiel Puig and Derek Dietrich crushed balls that would be home runs anywhere. With two outs in the fifth inning, Puig crushed the first pitch from Darvish for a solo homer that landed on Waveland Ave. beyond the left-field bleachers.

According to Statcast, the Puig drive left the bat with a 109.1 mph exit velocity and traveled 416 feet. It had an expected batting average of .980.

Cincinnati was trailing, 6-5, against Darvish in the eighth when Dietrich hit a laser to the center field batter’s eye for a game-tying leadoff homer.

“The way the ball was flying today in Wrigley, and also the swings we’ve been putting on it the last few games, we’re not out of any game,” said Dietrich, who has 13 homers on the season. “We’ve been putting up a lot of runs. We’re putting good swings on it, up and down the lineup.”

The data on Dietrich’s homer was also impressive with a 107.4 mph exit velocity, coupled with only a 19-degree launch angle, but a .780 hit expectancy. It traveled 424 feet.

“It was a little lower of a launch angle I guess, but I knew I hit it good,” Dietrich said. “That felt good because he got me a few times, and I felt like I was getting closer and closer and I got that when it really counted.”

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.