By HAL McCOY
When the Chicago Cubs play the Cincinnati Reds, fans can expect the unexpected.
Except for one thing. It can be expected that the Cubs will punish the Reds with a lot of runs and a lot of home runs. And the Cubs will win.
The unexpected? Kris Bryant hitting three home runs and two doubles in one game. Rookie Starling Castro getting five hits in his major league debut. Sammy Sosa hitting his 500th career home run. Anthony Rizzo challenging Aroldis Chapman to come out of the Reds dugout and fight. Manager Joe Maddon using three pitchers in left field in one game.
YES, STRANGE THINGS happen with the Cubs in Great American Ball Park and there was another bizarre occurrence Wednesday afternoon when the Cubs once again brutalized the Reds, this time by 9-2.
The Cubs are 9-and-1 against the Reds this season, finishing a three-game sweep this week, and they’ve averaged more than eight runs against the Reds pitching staff in Great American Ball Park.
And what was bizarre in this one?
ROOKIE CODY REED made his third major league start and the first two Cubs reached base on a leadoff bunt single by Ben Zobrist and a single by Kris Bryant.
Anthony Rizzo shot one to the left center gap and left fielder Adam Duvall and center fielder Billy Hamilton converged. Duvall stuck out his glove and missed the ball, blocking Hamilton’s vision. The ball smacked Hamilton in the face and the ball rolled to the wall.
While Hamilton was writhing on the ground Rizzo circled the bases for an inside-the-park home run and a 3-0 Cubs lead before Reed retired a batter.
Hamilton left the game and the Cubs continued to pour it on against Reed, who gave up two more home runs. He left after four innings, giving up seven runs, nine hits and three home runs.
The Cubs have hit 24 home runs this year against the Reds and Rizzo has six in Great American Ball Park, tying Houston’s Lance Berkman for most in one season by an opponent.
Rizzo’s inside-the-park home run was the first of his career and the first by a Cub since Springboro’s Tom Campana hit one against the Reds in Wrigley Field in 2011.
REED, ALLEGEDLY THE MOST promising pitcher in the Reds system, is off to morethan a shaky and more than a rocky start to his career. In three starts he is 0-and-2 with a 9.00 earned run average, giving up 16 runs and 24 hits in 16 innings.
On a slim positive note, Adam Duvall hit his 22nd home run when the Reds trailed, 7-0, and he leads the National League in home runs.
ON A NEGATIVE NOTE, the Red ran the bases like out-of-control robots.
In the third, with his team down 5-0, Votto tried to score from second base on Jay Bruce’s single to right field with two outs. Right fielder Ben Zobrist’s throw arrived so far in advance of Votto that he didn’t even try to slide.
In the eighth, with his team down by 9-2, the Reds had runners on first and third with two outs and Duvall tried to steal second. He was easily thrown out to end the inning.
All it did was make an ugly afternoon for the Reds even uglier. The Cubs had 12 hits, hit three homers and were the recipient of five walks.
But Reds fan, what few there were among the Cubs fans who dominated the attendance all three games, had something to cheer about in two of the three losses. Reds pitchers twice struck out more than 11 Cubs and got their fans free LaRosa’s pizza.
You look for positives where you can find them in his 29-50 season. Yes, the Reds have lost 50 games and are two games away from reaching the halfway point.