Cubs lose game of slim margins 3-2 as Reds take advantage of stolen base, dropped third strike

CINCINNATI — If the Cubs were going to have Reds phenom Elly De La Cruz on the bases, catching him in between first and second on a pickoff was the best possible scenario.

For a moment, that was where they stood, with first baseman Michael Busch ready to throw and second baseman David Bote in position to make the tag.

Then the reality of De La Cruz’ speed came crashing down. Busch’s throw on line, but he bounced it, and Bote came out of his crouch to field it, giving De La Cruz the split second he needed to dive around the tag.

“You have to be perfect with him,” manager Craig Counsell said after the Cubs’ 3-2 loss Friday. “And the throw was not good enough to get the out.”

The separator between the two teams Friday was highlighted in the contrast between the bottom of the fourth inning and the top of the fifth. The Reds took advantage of a walk and dropped a third strike to score two runs with just one hit. Then the Cubs loaded the bases with the help of a hit by pitch and a walk, but they came up empty.

The Cubs got seven strong innings out of starter Justin Steele, who held the Reds to five hits. He was charged with three runs, but two were changed to earned runs after the fact, when a dropped third strike in the fourth inning was switched from a passed ball to a wild pitch.

“When you get a start like that, you hope to win,” Counsell said.

Steele had retired 10 straight batters when he walked De La Cruz for the Reds’ first baserunner of the game.

From there, De La Cruz began creating havoc.

After recording the second out of the inning, Steele threw to first base in a 1-0 count to pick off De La Cruz.

“It was a great pickoff call from the bench,” Steele said. “They obviously had a good hint that he was going to be going. It’s so funny when those plays are on, you’re like, ‘Alright, just make it look like you’re going home, make it look like you’re going home.’ And I end up looking nothing like I’m going home.”

His part of the play still worked. The rest wasn’t quite clean enough.

“Obviously the speed, you want to get rid of it as quick as possible,” said Busch, who led the Cubs with two hits. “That’s a play that you want to make. Steeley did a phenomenal job at keeping him close for three or four pitches and the moment he breaks, picked him off. And it just needed to be a better throw, for sure.”

Steele then worked ahead of Spencer Steer and in a two-strike count, got him to chase a low slider.

The pitch, however, got past catcher Miguel Amaya. Scrambling after it, Amaya threw to first, but it was late. And in the commotion, De La Cruz advanced to third.

So, instead of the inning being over, there were runners on first and third with two outs.

“It’s such a long season,” Steele said. “Probably the last time it ever happens. He’s such a good kid, such a good player behind the plate. This team needs him.”

Steele gave up a two-run double to Tyler Stephenson before getting out of the inning.

The Cubs had a chance to counter the next inning, with Busch hitting a single and Patrick Wisdom and Seiaya Suzuki taking free passes. But they stranded the bases loaded.

“We just didn’t capitalize on our opportunities well enough,” Counsell said. “So that’s the story of the game. They didn’t have many opportunities; they capitalized on the opportunity that they got.”

On top of the loss, Suzuki exited in the sixth inning. When he stole second base in the first inning, he’d been hit on his left side by the throw. Then during that plate appearance in the fifth, he felt his oblique tighten up. Through an interpreter, he described the move as precautionary.

Source link


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *