Baseball

Selloff Imminent? – Cubs/Reds Series Review: Cubs Get Swept Again 1-2/2-3/2-3

The Cubs’ slump continues, but after last series I feel indifferent to this club. Why should I expect any more when our offense is sputtering and our starting pitchers just aren’t good enough? Now our bullpen is suffering too, after being overworked early on in the first half of the season. While the run earlier in the season was fun while it lasted, it’s really starting to look like a selloff is imminent, and maybe that’s for the best, because the team as it’s been the past few weeks isn’t very good at all.

July 2, 2021
Cubs 1, Reds 2
WP: Osich (1-0) LP: Mills (3-2)
Box Score

Things started out innocently enough, everyone looking okay through the first few innings as the Cubs seemed more evenly matched for the Reds, especially compared to the shellacking put to us by the Brewers in the last series. Alec Mills was throwing some nasty pitches, striking out four batters in the first two innings, totaling 9 strikeouts on the game after 5.2 innings pitched.

Ian Happ even got a hit in the 3rd inning, despite having one of the worst batting averages in the NL against lefties. Kris Bryant is back in the lineup, and he celebrated by going 2 for 4 for the night. His hit in the top of the 4th inning allowed Jason Heyward to bat him home on a double to put the Cubs up 1-0.

It would be the Cubs’ only run, as the wheels fell off the wagon just a few innings later at the bottom of the 6th, where Mills allowed a walk and a single to put runners on 1st and 2nd base. He was then yanked and replaced by Adam Morgan, who immediately gave up a double to make it 2-1 Reds; neither team decided it was necessary to score any more runs.

Dan Winkler and Andrew Chafin were able to hold the Reds to only one hit in the 8th and 9th innings, striking out three batters combined. But the Cubs pretty much gave up in the final innings of this game, allowing themselves to be struck out 4 times in 3 innings. The only time a hitter reached base was a Joc Pederson walk in the 7th, after a Cubs challenge about Willson Contreras grounding out was upheld on the field as an out.

July 3, 2021
Cubs 2, Reds 3
WP: Hendrix (4-1) LP: Alzolay (4-8)
Box Score

The Cubs’ losing streak extended to eight games, as the offense continues to be unable to follow through when runners are in scoring position, nor can they capitalize on games where the starters throw quality outings. This time it was Albert Alzolay, who pitched seven innings and allowed only 5 hits. Unfortunately, two of those were solo home runs, even though otherwise he had a pretty good outing. This is his fourth loss in a row, despite him not entirely deserving to have such a skid. By the end of the 7th inning, just before getting pulled, he allowed a walk, a double, and another single to score the Reds’ winning run, as the Cubs’ bats once again stopped working in the 8th and 9th innings.

The Cubs were able to score in the 2nd inning; Rafael Ortega came home on a passed ball after doubling earlier. In the 3rd inning, Kris Bryant’s solo homer made it 2-0 Cubs. In the 1st, 4th, 5th and 7th innings, the Cubs had runners in scoring position they didn’t convert on. Despite Bryant having three hits in five at-bats, there were only four other hits from the rest of the team that came from Rizzo, Conteras, Ortega and Eric Sogard. Without offense, the Reds were able to edge the team out in the 7th inning, after Joey Votto walked and Tyler Stephenson doubled to score him.

The bullpen of Brad Wieck and Craig Kimbrel only pitched one inning combined, but they of course allowed no hits. They allowed one walk total and struck out three batters. I guess the only bright side to this game is that a lot of the pen got the day off to rest, which is important since those games seem to be very few and far between for those poor pitchers.

July 4, 2021
Cubs 2, Reds 3
WP: Warren (2-0) LP: Winkler (1-1)
Box Score

The Cubs were able to celebrate the founding of America by activating Nico Hoerner off the injured list, finally. He was not very helpful on the offensive front, with no hits and a strikeout where he chased a ball that no one could hit. However, he was effective when needed defensively on the field, as he was part of an inning-ending double-play in the 5th inning to keep the Cubs’ one-run lead intact.

On the offensive front, the Cubs had plenty of hits but not a lot of runs to show for it. Patrick Wisdom, Hoerner and Ian Happ were the only players who went without a hit this game, with Contreras, Baez, Rizzo and Jake Marisnick having two.

Kyle Hendricks pitched well, giving the Cubs another quality start with 5 hits and only one run allowed in 6 innings. The Cubs gave him the minimum amount of effort needed offensively to let him walk away without taking the loss, which was oh so kind of them.

The bullpen, however, seemed to be a different story. Dan Winkler was the first pitcher up, and immediately gave up a single, a hit by pitch and another single to load the bases. After a forceout, Winkler hit another batter, allowing the tying run to score. He was replaced by Andrew Chafin in a bases loaded, one-out situation, and a ground ball forceout was all it took for the Reds to score one more player in order to put them in the lead 3-2.

The Cubs were unable to come back; for the rest of the game only three guys got on base and only one of those situations was a hit, an Eric Sogard single. Ian Happ walked earlier that same inning in the 9th, but Willson Contreras grounded into a double play, ending the game.

The Cubs could’ve made the most of this Reds series, but they didn’t, and now they slip to 3rd place in the Central. The Cubs now look forward to playing nothing but sub-.500 teams all the way through the end of the month, as a four-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies awaits them starting tonight and going through all next week. Then they get a series against the Cardinals, the Diamondbacks, and the Cardinals again before facing Cincinnati at the end of the month. You can’t really drop any of those Cardinals games, and there’s no excuses to not win against the Diamondbacks. The Phillies should in theory be easy opponents as well.

If the Cubs were going to end their slump and get hot again, now is the time to do it. Fail against these teams and there’s no question it’ll be a selling deadline. Sit back and get ready to watch some sub-par baseball! Go Cubs go!

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