CINCINNATI -- At times, it felt more like a goat rodeo on Saturday night than Game 2 of a seven-inning doubleheader between the Reds and Cubs. There were five ejections, a benches-clearing incident, some sloppy defense and bullpen mishaps.
The wacky night at Great American Ball Park ended when Cincinnati came away from the nightcap with a 6-5 walk-off victory on a wild pitch to Jose Garcia that scored Nick Castellanos. Chicago earned a 3-0 win in Game 1. A nutty turn of events in the bottom of the seventh prevented the Reds from getting swept in bitter fashion.
"What a great, great win," said Reds manager David Bell, who was ejected in the fourth inning. "A couple of our best players go out of the game and it seems like nothing went right after that, and our team stayed with it. And so many little things happened there at the end of the game that gave us the opportunity to win the game. I can't actually think of a better way to win a game that means more than that, because it was definitely not easy."
Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel, who issued four walks and hit a batter during a meltdown in his 2020 debut in Cincinnati on July 27, blew a 5-4 lead with three walks and three wild pitches.
Kimbrel issued a leadoff walk to Curt Casali and a one-out walk to Nick Castellanos. That allowed Aristides Aquino to hit the game-tying single to center field that scored pinch-runner Freddy Galvis. A wild pitch moved the runners 90 feet and Eugenio Suárez was intentionally walked to load the bases.
With two outs, a wild pitch to Garcia scored Castellanos with the walk-off winning run.
"I just had a ball get through the legs and we had a blooper drop," Kimbrel said. "Obviously, because I walked guys, that hurt us. I mean, I haven't been giving up a lot of hard line drives, a lot of hard contact. It's one of those things I was trying to get away from. But obviously tonight, you can't put guys on, you can't come off pitches. And it came back to get me."
Trouble found the Reds in the top of the fifth against reliever Michael Lorenzen when the first batter, Nico Hoerner, lifted a routine fly ball to the right field warning track that was dropped by Nick Castellanos for a two-base error. Hoerner scored the unearned tying run on Happ's one-out double.
"Anytime you make an error on the field, it's a bad feeling," Bell said of Castellanos, who would be redeemed later by scoring the winning run. "The fact of the matter is, errors are going to happen. The only thing you can do is wait for your next opportunity to do something to change them."
In the sixth, Reds reliever Tyler Thornburg faced three batters and retired none to load the bases. Nate Jones took over and did damage control, but not before Hoerner drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly.
Over his four games with the Reds entering the night, Thornburg hadn't allowed a hit and retired 15 of 16 batters.
Besides exchanging words during the game, the Cubs and Reds also exchanged leadoff home runs. Ian Happ opened the game against Reds rookie Tejay Antone by hitting a 3-2 pitch for a homer to right field. Beginning the bottom of the first, Joey Votto took Alec Mills deep to right field and evened the score.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time both leadoff batters homered to begin the game was Sept. 2, 2019, when the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson and the Rockies’ Trevor Story did it. The last time it happened and involved the Reds was also against Colorado when Charlie Blackmon and Zack Cozart both went deep on May 30, 2016.
The Reds took a 4-1 lead on Cubs starter Alec Mills in the third inning when Curt Casali led off the frame with a homer to left field and Jesse Winker slugged a two-run shot to right field with one out.
During the fourth inning, Antone threw a wild pitch over the head of Anthony Rizzo. It started a tense chain of events that resulted in the ejections of Cubs manager David Ross and coach Mike Borzello. In the bottom half of the inning when reliever Adbert Alzolay went up and in with a pitch to Shogo Akiyama, both benches exchanged words and eventually benches cleared. Reds manager David Bell, Votto and Winker were all ejected.
Before the top of the fourth inning ended, Antone gave up David Bote's two-run homer.
“There’s definitely some room for improvement," Antone said. "At the end of the day, we won that game, so I’m happy with my start. It was enough runs to get us a win.”