The Reds managed just two hits against Cubs starter Yu Darvish and David Hernandez’s recent struggles continued in Cincinnati’s 5-2 loss to Chicago on Wednesday afternoon, a game Derek Dietrich and Nick Senzel both exited due to injury.
Having dropped five of their last seven, with their three most recent losses by just one run, the Reds – playing the third of a crucial 10-game stretch against NL Central rivals – began the day with a number of banged-up position players (namely, Curt Casali and Kyle Farmer), as well as a shorthanded bullpen (Amir Garrett, Raisel Iglesias).
On the bright side, Reds starter Sonny Gray took the mound at Wrigley Field riding a hot streak, as over his last three starts, he yielded just 13 hits and 3 runs over 21 1/3 innings, in which he struck out 27 batters while walking only five. In fact, Gray had not given up more than six hits or four runs all season long – a streak that continued on Wednesday – and considering that he averaged more than 100 pitches over his last nine starts, the Reds surely hoped he’d be able to pitch deep into the game, especially without Iglesias or Garrett to turn to.
Cincinnati’s starting lineup was somewhat surprising, as Joey Votto got an increasingly rare start in a day game that followed a night game. Additionally, catcher Juan Graterol – who was called up Wednesday morning after Iglesias went on the paternity list – made his Reds debut after hitting .249/.301/.325 this year with Louisville. A 30-year-old with more than a dozen years of experience in the minors, Graterol made only nine plate appearances with the Angels and Twins last year, and will likely return to the Bats once Farmer and/or Casali are closer to 100 percent.
Perhaps the biggest surprise, however, was Dietrich getting the start in left field over Jesse Winker and the hot-hitting Phillip Ervin. Both Winker and Ervin have better career splits against right-handed pitchers than Dietrich, but manager David Bell was likely swayed by the fact that in nine plate appearances against Cubs starter Yu Darvish going into Wednesday’s game, Dietrich was 4 for 9 with two home runs.
Unfortunately, Dietrich was hit for the 21st time this season in the 5th when Darvish plunked his right knee with an 84 mph cutter, after which he exited the game. (Ervin replaced him.) Gray, meanwhile, yielded solo home runs to the Cubs’ Kris Bryant on a two-out, first-pitch 92 mph fastball in the first and a two-out, 82 MPH hanging curveball to Addison Russell in the second.
The Reds struck out at a prolific rate early in the game, with Senzel and Votto each going down looking in the first before Yasiel Puig and Dietrich K’d on just six pitches to start the second. Senzel and Puig struck out again to end the third and fourth, respectively. Even worse, the team didn’t hit a ball out of the infield until the 4th inning and didn’t get a base hit until Graterol’s two-out single in the 5th.
The Reds finally threatened in the 6th, when Senzel smacked a leadoff double and advanced to third on a groundout by Votto. Eugenio Suarez then hit a hard grounder to third, and Senzel – who was running on contact with the Cubs infield playing deep – was tagged out at home. Puig struck out for the third time to end the inning.
With Darvish out of the game, the Reds threatened again in the 7th, as Ervin was hit to lead off the inning. Scooter Gennett then grounded into a fielder’s choice and advanced to second on a Jose Iglesias single to right. From there, Graterol flied out to center and Iglesias was picked off to end the inning.
The Iglesias pickoff was doubly unfortunate, as Bell chose to have Jose Peraza pinch-hit for Gray with two out and two on despite Gray – whose pitch count was just 85 – having retired 13 straight Cubs. (Other than the two solo home runs, he didn’t yield any hits while striking out eight and walking none.) David Hernandez then entered the game, and his recent struggles continued. He walked Bryant and Rizzo to start the 7th and then gave up a two-run, one-out double to Jason Heyward to effectively put the game away.
In the 8th, the Reds tried to battle back and got on the board when Peraza doubled to lead off the inning and scored on a Senzel single. After Votto – who had just three hits on the team’s road trip – saw his streak of having reached base in 41 consecutive games at Wrigley Field come to an end as he flied out to left, Suarez singled to right to bring the tying run to the plate. Puig then singled to left, scoring Senzel (who then left the game with an apparent hamstring injury), but Ervin subsequently grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. The Reds then went down in order in the 9th.
Notably, Michael Lorenzen – who replaced Senzel in center in the bottom of the 8th – went straight from the outfield to the mound that inning with two on and two out. Anthony Rizzo then hit a playable ground ball to Suarez, but the Reds’ third baseman couldn’t come up with it, and the Cubs added another run. Lorenzen then struck out Cubs catcher Victor Caratini to end the inning.
The Reds will now return to Cincinnati to play four games against the Cardinals, with Tanner Roark set to start game one of the series tomorrow night at 7:10 p.m. EST.