There was no settling for a split doubleheader in the Cincinnati Reds’ dugout on Tuesday, after they stormed back from a five-run deficit to beat the Chicago Cubs in walk-off fashion, 6-5.
After sending out ace Johnny Cueto to the hill to pick up the win in the opener, whatever David Holmberg could offer to the Reds would be a bonus. Unless of course, he could not escape the third inning.
It is unlikely that Holmberg was the true desired candidate to make this start, but due to his inclusion on the club’s 40-man roster, he became the only logical option. He would narrowly avert disaster in the first when both Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro made loud outs, but his good fortune would not continue.
Beginning with Chris Coghlan in the second inning, the Cubs would blast three home runs off Holmberg over the next two frames. Coghlan would finish the day 2-for-4 with a walk, increasing his numbers in the series to 7-for-12 with two walks and a hit by pitch. Fascinating stuff from a player who came in batting just above .220.
Not much of anything was working for Holmberg on Tuesday. Topping out at only 89 MPH, his command of his off-speed pitches was not at the level it needed to be to get out big league batters—and the Cubs let him know about it. He would record only eight outs (one by sacrifice bunt), allow seven hits, walk three, give up three home runs and five runs in total. His second Major League start went much worse than his first.
As the bullpen took over, the game felt out of reach. Yet, the scoreboard read only 5-0. There was a flicker of optimism.
It became easy to forget that Cubs starter Tsuyoshi Wada was making his Major League debut. Looking unflappable once he got through his first couple of innings, Wada settled into the game nicely. There were multiple hard hit balls in the first two innings, but no runs would score.
Starting with Skip Schumaker walking to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning, the leadoff batter in each inning would reach base for the Reds for the remainder of the evening. With that being said, it should come as no surprise that that runner scored in every single inning.
As the Reds chipped away at the deficit, the Cubs looked completely inept. They would go 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position on the night while leaving 12 men on base.
Before the accolades of the offense can be distinguished, make no mistake what won the game for the Reds: pitching. Logan Ondrusek may have picked up the win for pitching the final two innings while the bats got hot enough to score two runs, but the efforts from both Carlos Contreras and J.J. Hoover were spectacular. Contreras would get seven outs, Hoover would get six (all via the strikeout) and Ondrusek would go through the heart of the Cubs’ order to keep them deadlocked at five runs just long enough.
Normally when the Reds have scored late this year, it has been in bunches. They scored in bunches tonight—bunches of innings, that is. Every inning from the fifth on would see the Reds methodically creep another run closer before finally dealing the deathblow.
They would load the bases in the fifth with nobody out, but only score a single run on a throwing error from centerfielder Junior Lake.
The sixth inning saw Todd Frazier’s leadoff double turn into a run after some small ball that pulled the Reds within three runs.
Cubs’ relievers would lose sense of the strike zone in the seventh; walking the first three batters that strode to the plate. Devin Mesoraco seemed poised to swing the tide, but he bounded into a double play, nearly killing a blossoming rally. Before the inning could end, Billy Hamilton would clobber an RBI triple to the right centerfield gap, thinking about the inside-the-park home run for just a split second.
Backend of the bullpen relief pitching has never particularly been a strong suit of the 21st century Cubs, with the 2014 version being no exception. Pedro Strop attempted to get out the heart of the Reds’ order in the eighth, but first baseman Jay Bruce would knot the game up at five on an opposite-field RBI double.
The collapse had already occurred. Heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Cubs had been at the ballpark for 12 hours, and just seen their best opportunity at a win slip away. That may serve as the reason as to why a pop-up down the left field line landed in between a Bermuda triangle of players for a clean base hit. A frozen rope by Devin Mesoraco later and there were men at the corners with nobody out.
Tuesday’s contest began with two Triple-A pitchers starting the contest. In fact, there is a legitimate argument to be made that not one pitcher who appeared in the game is a true big league pitcher, but that did not stop Billy Hamilton. Cubs “closer” Hector Rondon sawed his bat in half, but it frayed up just the smallest amount of dirt down the left field line and Hamilton was mobbed as he rounded first base.
The legend of “Billy the Kid” is ever expanding, especially so with his two clutch base hits delivered late in the game.
In what could ultimately become a pivotal moment in the season of the Cincinnati Reds, they now sit six games above .500. In one day, they gained a game and a half on the Milwaukee Brewers, slicing the division lead down to three and a half games.
The only Major League start made by either of the Cubs’ next two pitchers was Dallas Beeler’s last start. The Cubs rookie gets the ball at 7:10 p.m. against Alfredo Simon, who looks to prove he was a legitimate All-Star snub.
With the Cubs seemingly on the ropes, the Redlegs sit in position to deliver a deathblow.
Tags: Cincinnati Reds