The Cincinnati Reds had the Chicago Cubs right where they wanted them, but the Reds couldn’t complete the sweep after a bullpen letdown allowed Chicago to score five times in the final four innings to win 5-4 on Sunday at Great American Ballpark.
Cincinnati (31-19) rallied to win in the first two games of the series, but were on the other side as Chicago (19-30) tries to climb out of last place by stealing a win. The Reds as tied for the third best record in baseball, but unfortunately they share that honor with Pittsburgh and trail the St. Louis Cardinals (32-17) by a 1.5. The Cubs are just one of six teams that have yet to eclipse the 20 win mark.
The first three innings belonged to the pitchers as Matt Garza and Johnny Cueto kept their opponents off the scoreboard. The Cubs had their first chance to strike when Starlin Castro doubled with one out, but Cueto induced two groundouts to end the threat.
In the Reds half, they took Garza to task as Jay Bruce homered with one out to break the scoreless tie. Garza hit Todd Frazier and then walked Xavier Paul to set up an RBI-single by Ryan Hanigan. After a Cueto strikeout and an intentional walk to Shin-Soo Choo loaded the bases, Zack Cozart made the Cubs pay with a two-run double that made it 4-0.
That would be it for Garza who gave way to the bullpen in the fifth. Five Cubs relievers combined to hold the Reds to just one hit for the rest of the game. Chicago was able to use their pitching to help start a rally in the seventh.
Cueto had runners at first and third with Luis Valbuena at the plate and the third baseman put the Cubs on the board with an RBI single. That proved to be the only blemish on Cueto for the day as he followed by striking out Darwin Barney. He allowed just four hits and seven innings with two strikeouts in his second outing since coming off the disabled list.
He gave way to Logan Ondrusek, who quickly retired the first two hitters, but Castro started a two-out rally against the Reds reliever. Anthony Rizzo followed with an RBI double and then Alfonso Soriano tied the game 376th career home run. Manny Parra came on in relief and allowed the next two hitters to reach before getting Valbuena to line out.
In the ninth Chicago had a chance to win it when David DeJesus led off the inning with a double. J.J. Hoover (0-4) was able to stand DeJesus at third when he struck out Castro to end the inning. Cincinnati had a similar opportunity against Kyuji Fujikawa, but Kevin Gregg (1-0) came on to avoid any further damage by getting Brandon Phillips to pop out.
Hoover retired the first two hitters in the tenth, but a walk to Scott Hairston proved costly when he came in to score after a line drive off the bat of Wellington Castillo skipped off the glove of Frazier and rattled into left field. After an intentional walk to Valbuena, Hoover struck out Barney to end the inning.
Gregg stayed on for the Cubs and got Bruce to line out, but he walked Frazier and then Jack Hannahan reached on catcher’s interference to put the tying run at second. Gregg avoided any further trouble by getting Hanigan to fly out and then got Donald Lutz to ground out to end the game.
The Reds will stay home for the next two days as they welcome the Cleveland Indians (27-22) to town. The two will square off on Memorial Day during a special matinee game that starts at 1:10 P.M. The two teams will play again on Tuesday before heading to Cleveland on Wednesday and Thursday to finish the series.
Ubaldo Jimenez (3-3, 6.04 ERA) will take on Mike Leake (4-2, 3.25 ERA). Leake has not allowed a run in his last two starts (13.2 innings).