Cubs

Even with injuries, Joe Maddon thought Cubs would have better record halfway through season

Even with injuries, Joe Maddon thought Cubs would have better record halfway through season

CINCINNATI (AP) — With the bases loaded, two outs and the Reds down a run, manager Bryan Price decided to let his rookie pitcher take some swings.

Jackson Stephens delivered on the first one.

The right-hander lasted five innings in his major league debut and drove in the go-ahead runs with a bases-loaded single on Saturday, leading Cincinnati to a 5-3 victory over the struggling Chicago Cubs.

"It was unbelievable, a childhood dream," said Stephens (1-0), who smacked his hands together after reaching first base on his first major league hit.

The Cubs' fourth loss in five games dropped them to 40-41, well off their pace from a year ago (51-30) when they were on their way to an NL Central title and a World Series championship.

"We look forward to turning that thing around completely and heading in the other direction - .500 is not good enough for us, and we know that," infielder Ben Zobrist said.

The Cubs' roster has been depleted by injuries, contributing to their season-long inconsistency. Zobrist returned from the disabled list on Saturday, and Kris Bryant was back after missing two games with a sprained ankle.

Manager Joe Maddon thought his team would have a better record at this point, even with the injuries.

"But it's OK," Maddon said. "We get everybody healthy right now, get everybody back out there, and I'm very confident that we'll start looking like we're supposed to look."

Stephens gave up a solo homer by Jon Jay and a two-run shot by Willson Contreras in five innings. He was called up to help the Reds fill an opening in the rotation created by Brandon Finnegan's arm injury.

With two outs and the bases loaded in the fourth, Stephens singled up the middle off Eddie Butler (4-3) for two runs and a 4-3 lead.

"I located probably my best fastball of the day to the pitcher and he hits a six-hopper up the middle," Butler said. "That's frustrating."

Raisel Iglesias escaped a two-on threat in the eighth and got the last four outs for his 15th save in 16 chances.

Chicago managed only three singles while losing the series opener 5-0 on Friday night. The Cubs got to Stephens the second time through the order for a 3-0 lead. Jay led off the third inning with his first homer since May 24 of last season, and Contreras added a two-run shot.

Cincinnati sent nine batters to the plate in the fourth. Adam Duvall doubled home a run, and Butler walked Tucker Barnhart to force in a run with two outs and bring up Stephens, who singled on the first pitch.

GOTCHA!

Billy Hamilton singled to open the Reds' first inning and was picked off by Butler, the first time he's been picked off this season.

TWEET

Maddon tweeted two photos of a large group of Cubs fans cheering the team as it left the hotel for the ballpark on Saturday morning. "Pretty spectacular," Maddon said. "And it's humbling, it really is."

STATS

Jay's homer ended a streak of 328 at-bats without one. ... The Cubs have homered in 16 of their last 17 games at Great American Ball Park. ... The Reds will try to sweep the Cubs for the first time at Great American. Their last three-game sweep in Cincinnati came in 1996 at Cinergy Field. ... Stephens is the first Reds pitcher with two RBIs in his major league debut since Paul Moskau drove in two runs on June 21, 1977, according to information from the Elias Sports Bureau provided by the Reds.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Cubs: Zobrist was activated off the DL and grounded out as a pinch hitter. He missed 17 games with an injured left wrist. ... OF Jason Heyward starts a rehab assignment on Sunday. He's been sidelined since June 19 by a hand injury.

Reds: SS Zack Cozart got a day off. He returned from a thigh injury and singled twice on Friday night. He'll get days off regularly as he's eased back into a starting role.

UP NEXT

Cubs: Jake Arrieta (7-6) makes his first start since the Washington Nationals stole seven bases against him during the Cubs' 6-1 loss on Tuesday. Afterward, Miguel Montero blamed the pitcher's move to the plate, prompting the Cubs to let go of the catcher a day later.

Reds: Tim Adleman (5-4) is 3-2 with a 3.43 ERA in his last seven starts. He didn't get a decision in the Cubs' 6-5 win at Wrigley Field on April 21 after he allowed two runs in six innings.

Kris Bryant's injury looms large as Cubs finish home stand in underwhelming fashion

Kris Bryant's injury looms large as Cubs finish home stand in underwhelming fashion

There are 162 baseball games in a season and some days, you’re just not going to have it. On Sunday afternoon, in a 10-2 loss to the Reds, the Cubs just didn’t have it. 

“It’s already in the trash can...” Maddon said. “... so let’s flush it out and move on.” 

Things were bleak from the very first at-bat of the game, when Kyle Schwarber took a 3-2 fastball looking for one of his three strikeouts on the day. Anthony Rizzo was the only starter not to strike out at least once, as the Cubs’ finished with 11. Reds starter Tanner Roark was responsible for 9 of them, his season-high. 

Things weren’t much better on the basepaths or in the field. Besides making two errors, Anthony Rizzo was thrown out at the plate in the 2nd inning and David Bote got doubled-up at first after drawing a walk in the 6th. The Cubs were playing playing their 13th game in 13 days, and it showed.

“I feel really good about how we’ve been playing until today,” Maddon said. “This whole month we’ve been in almost every game except for this one, and maybe the [7-0 loss on May 10th] against Milwaukee. There’s not a whole lot to be upset about, and I’m not. I just want to make sure everyone’s well moving forward.” 

There was a scary moment in the 6th inning, as Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward collided in the right field gap while trying to make a play on a fly ball from Eugenio Suarez. Bryant was slow to get up and eventually had to leave the game. He’s still being evaluated for a head/neck injury, and the Cubs don’t yet know if he’ll go into concussion protocol. For what it's worth, Bryant was cleared to fly with the team. 

“He’s doing okay,” he said. “He’s still under evaluation. We don’t know exactly what we’re doing with this whole thing yet, but we’re trying to talk with the doctors and find out exactly where we’re at.”

“We collided, and I called for the ball,” Heyward added. “We were both going hard to make a play and ran into each other.”

The loss dropped starter Jose Quintana to 4-4 on the season. Quintana went 5.1 innings while allowing six runs on 12 hits with one walk and two strikeouts. Despite relatively weak contact, the Reds hit well all weekend. Their 42 hits over three games was the most for them in a three-game series at Wrigley since 1976, and they finished the weekend with a .404 BABIP. 

“Yeah, I just had to keep pitching, you know?” Quintana said. “Keeping my focus. It was really tough - too many base hits. In some contests that happens. I just try to stay close in the game.” 

The Cubs finished their 7-game homestand at 3-4, and now hit the road for a two-city trip. Up first comes the 35-19 Astros, who are 20-7 at home. This season Houston ranks first in on-base percentage, second in slugging percentage, and third in home runs. Their closer, Ryan Pressley, has the lowest ERA of all qualified relievers and is fresh off a streak of 40 straight scoreless appearances.

“I’m excited,” Joe Maddon said before Sunday’s game. “Let’s get by today, but I’m excited for the whole week. Look at our schedule - it’s been pretty firm, and it continues to be pretty firm. And that’s the way it should be. I’m looking forward to it.” 

Kris Bryant leaves Sunday's game after outfield collision with Jason Heyward

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Scott Chagnon/NBC Sports Chicago

Kris Bryant leaves Sunday's game after outfield collision with Jason Heyward

Add injury to insult for the Cubs. 

In the top of the 6th inning, with the Cubs already down 6 runs, right fielder Kris Bryant left the game after colliding with Jason Heyward in the outfield.

You can check out the video right here. 

It's possible that the move was simply precautionary. The Cubs are on their 13th game in 13 days, and being down six runs in the latter half of a getaway game isn't the time to roll the dice. That said, Bryant missing time would be a significant blow, as the Cubs' star is in the midst of a stellar season. Through 49 games, Bryant's slashing .288/.411/.576 with a .987 and a 160 wRC+. As of Sunday afternoon, only Javy Baez has a higher WAR (2.5) than Bryant (2.4). 

There's been no further announcement on the extent of Bryant's injury.