Narrowly avoiding being the victims of perfection for the second time in 2014, the Cincinnati Reds ultimately fell to the Chicago Cubs by a final of 7-3 on Tuesday night.
Clearly not affected by the 53-minute rain delay that occurred at game time, Cubs starter Jake Arrieta was at his finest. Once an extremely highly touted prospect in the Baltimore Orioles organization, Arrieta came over to the Cubs in the Scott Feldman deal last July. Based on his performance on Tuesday, it seems he will be a thorn in the Reds’ side for quite some time.
Matching him punch-for-punch through the first 11 outs recorded was Reds starter Homer Bailey.
The Cubs got on the board in the exact same way they did in the series opener on Monday with Anthony Rizzo clobbering a solo home run. This one was of the pulled variety and was aided by the basket, but it counts as a round tripper nonetheless.
Before the Redlegs could even sniff a baserunner against Arrieta on this night, Bailey would watch his evening cave in around him. Walking Arrieta himself, and then the nearly impossible to walk Junior Lake, his night would be done after 5.1 innings when he drilled Starlin Castro on an 0-2 pitch that placed Chicago ahead 3-0.
For the first time in his 11 career starts against the Cubs, the Reds lost a game in which Bailey pitched against the villains from the north side of Chicago.
Leading off the top of the seventh, Billy Hamilton quickly dashed any hopes of perfection or no-hit evenings for the Cubs. On an RBI single from Devin Mesoraco and an RBI double from Jay Bruce, the Reds were suddenly right back in the contest, trailing only 4-2.
As a last gasping breath, Arrieta would fan Ryan Ludwick for what would be his ninth strikeout of the evening. It may not have been perfection, but for Arrieta, the win would certainly suffice.
It would take a quartet of Cubs relievers to navigate through the murky waters of the eighth inning, but eventually, three outs would be recorded.
In a gross misuse of the bullpen, Cubs sitting duck manager Rick Renteria went to Wesley Wright, Justin Grimm, James Russell and Brian Schlitter to get just three outs. Had the game gone to extra innings, even with a bullpen full of bodies, the move would have blown up in the Cubs’ face.
The implosion would not come from the Chicago bullpen, but the Cincinnati one. Although Sam LeCure was the unassuming victim, three runs (only one earned) would cross the plate under his watch. A ball that trickled under Joey Votto’s glove plated two before a sacrifice fly would put the Cubs ahead 7-2.
Coming back from a five-run deficit in the ninth inning was not likely—even against the Cubs’ ‘pen.
There was a sliver of hope though. And that sliver came from the thunder stick Devin Mesoraco has been swinging over his past four games. All he needed was a home run in his final at-bat of the evening and he would have tied a franchise record for homering in five consecutive games, and homer he did. A no-doubter of a blast into the left field bleachers, Mesoraco stands just a day away from Reds immortality.
Mesoraco was the only member of the club to have a multi-hit night on Tuesday. The combination of Todd Frazier, Joey Votto and Ryan Ludwick went 0-for-12 with four strikeouts–not a recipe for offensive success.
The series boils down to Wednesday night, where the Reds will play a baffling third consecutive night game at Wrigley Field. Once famous for nothing but afternoon tilts, playing games in darkness at Wrigley still looks odd aesthetically.
Mat Latos looks to pick up his first win of the season in just his third start in 2014 as he faces off with familiar foe, Edwin Jackson. First pitch is expected at 7:05 p.m. amidst dusk and a setting sun using Chicago as her backdrop.