CHICAGO -- A bullpen short on long relievers and a big deficit put Reds manager Bryan Price in a dreaded but inevitable position vs. the Cubs in Monday's four-game series opener. Price summoned second baseman Scooter Gennett to pitch the bottom of the eighth inning during a 15-5 loss at Wrigley Field.
Gennett took the mound after Chicago posted a six-run seventh that made it a 13-2 game. The Reds scored three in the top of the eighth, including Gennett's 20th long ball of the season, a two-run shot.
"It's never fun, because usually the game's a little out of hand at that point," Gennett said after pitching in the big leagues for the first time and becoming the first player to have a four-homer game and a pitching appearance in same season (he hit four home runs against the Cardinals on June 6). "Whatever the manager wants you to do, it's our job to do it. I'd already been throwing like that for years now. I knew I could flip them in there and hopefully make a quick inning and get up to hit again."
On this trip, the Reds endured three straight starts of five innings or fewer at Milwaukee. Cincinnati escaped with an 11-2 win Friday after holding a 10-2 advantage, and Saturday required 10 innings of work in a loss. Long man Tim Adleman pitched on Saturday and again in Sunday's 7-4 loss.
On Monday night, Kevin Shackelford worked 1 1/3 innings after starter Asher Wojciechowski gave up seven runs and 10 hits over 3 2/3 innings. After Blake Wood worked a scoreless sixth inning, Drew Storen allowed six runs (three earned) in two-thirds of an inning in the seventh. Michael Lorenzen got the final out, but Price wasn't going to keep using Lorenzen, one of his better relievers, or waste using his best reliever, Raisel Iglesias, in a blowout.
• Gennett made history once again ... this time, for his pitching
That left Gennett to deal pitches to Cubs batters in a sidearm-style slow delivery. He threw 21 pitches with an average velocity of 65.9 mph and gave up two earned runs, two hits and one walk. Javier Baez hit a two-run home run.
"He knew exactly what to do, not overthrow, just try to throw it in there," Price said. "It wasn't awfully sharp. I didn't expect him to be. He made it through the inning without us having to use another pitcher or another position player."
It was less than a year ago when the Reds last pressed a position player into pitching service. On Aug. 22, 2016, vs. the Dodgers, Tyler Holt tossed a perfect inning in an 18-9 Reds loss.
Utility player Skip Schumaker appeared on the mound for Cincinnati vs. the Braves in a blowout loss on Aug. 21, 2014. Shortstop Paul Janish pitched on two occasions for the Reds in 2009.
"In warmups, I thought I was the best pitcher ever," Gennett said. "Then hitters started to get up there and humbled me up real quick."