By Hal McCoy
CINCINNATI — A scout sitting in the Great American Ball Park press box watched the Chicago Cubs perfectly execute the squeeze play back-to-back Friday night against the Cincinnati Reds and said, “I’m not a big fan of Joe Maddon, but that’s the way you play the game, that’s the way the game is supposed to be played.”
Those two runs in the fourth inning Friday night were just part of the Cubs offensive weaponry as they beat the Cincinnati Reds for the fifth straight time this year, 8-1.
The Cubs already were ahead, 2-0, in the fourth when they had runners on first and third with no outs. Manager Joe Maddon flashed the squeeze bunt sign and catcher David Ross put it down perfectly as Javier Baez scored from third.
Reds pitcher Jon Moscot threw the bunt past first baseman Joey Votto for an error and that put runners on second and third. Once done, twice a do-over. Pitcher Jon Lester put down another bunt and Addison Russell scored from third for a 4-0 lead.
THE CUBS SCORED their first run in the second inning with perfect execution of a different kind. Javier Baez singled, stole second, moved to third on a ground ball and scored on Ross’s sacrifice fly to right field.
And what is a Cubs victory against the Reds without the long ball? Anthony Rizzo ripped a home run into the right field moon deck leading off the fourth.
Rizzo’s home run was the 10th hit by the Cubs against the Reds in five games. The Reds? They have two.
In addition to a textbook offense, the Cubs were defensive-minded, too. They turned two double plays and one of those almost was a triple play. And Cubs starter Jon Lester held the Reds to one run and five hits over seven innings.
AFTER GETTING NO-HIT Thursday by Jake Arrieta, the Reds got a hit off Lester quickly — an excuse-me poke single to left by Joey Votto with two outs in the first inning, ending a 0 for 17 slide-for-life by Votto.
The Reds threatened to score a run in the fifth when Jay Bruce and Adam Duvall hit back-to-back no-out singles. But the Cubs nearly pulled off a triple play on Tyler Holt.
Holt, a speedster, hit one right to third baseman Javier Baez. He stepped on third to force Bruce, threw to second to force Duvall and only because Holt runs very fast was he able to avoid the triple play. Pinch-hitter Jordan Pacheco grounded to short and the threat was extinguished.
AFTER 14 STRAIGHT scoreless innings the last two nights against the Cubs, the Reds broke through for a run in the sixth when Zack Cozart led the inning with his first home run of the season. When Eugenio Suarez singled it looked as if the Reds were rallying again.
But Votto grounded into a double play and Brandon Phillips popped up to leave it a 4-1.
ON A POSITIVE NOTE, the Reds may have found some bullpen help. Nicaraguan pitcher J.C. Ramirez, called up Friday morning from Class AAA Louisville, made his debut for the Reds. He walked the first hitter he faced, then retired eight straight before giving up a two-out single to Ben Zobrist in the eighth.
After Ramirez’s three scoreless innings manager Bryan Price brought in much-troubled J.J. Hoover. And, yes, the first batter he faced, Baez, hit a home run, his first of the year.
Then with two outs and nobody on, Hoover gave up four straight hits, including three straight long doubles, for three more runs. At that point, with the score 8-1, Price had to rescue Hoover before the Cubs hurt somebody. When he walked toward the dugout accompanied by catcalls he took with him a 19.50 earned run average.
On the other side, the Cubs have the Bullpen Supremo. Pedro Strop pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and Justin Grimm finished it in the ninth in short order fashion, even though he hit Joey Votto with a pitch.