By HAL McCOY
The growing pains continue for the Cincinnati Reds and there isn’t a pill in the medicine cabinet to cure it.
Feeling the most pain these days is 23-year-old starting pitcher Robert Stephenson, who showed Wednesday night why the Reds kept their top pitching prospect in the minor leagues for most of the season.
Stephenson continues to have command issues and they were self-evident Wednesday during his 9-2 loss as the Cubs completed a three-game sweep.
STEPHNSON SURVIVED ONLY 3 2/3 innings and needed 98 pitches to get that far. He gave up four runs and eight hits. Amazingly, all eight hits came when Stephenson had two strikes on Cubs hitters as he couldn’t come up with a put-away pitch.
The Reds are 3-and-13 against the National League Central champions and finish the season with three games in Cincinnati against the Cubs.
And the Reds have lost seven of their last eight as they head for Milwaukee for a three-game series that begins Friday night. The last place Reds are five games behind the next-to-last place Brewers.
STEPHENSON PUT HIMSELF into immediate trouble when he started his night by hitting Cubs leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler with a pitch.
Then he was a victim of misfortune. Anthony Rizzo beat out an infield dribble up the third base line. Ben Zobrist grounded a single through shortstop to score Fowler. With two outs, Javier Baez dribbled one up the third base line and beat it for a hit as another run scored. The Reds challenged the call at first base but lost and it was 2-0.
The Reds tied it, 2-2, against Cubs starter John Lackey in the second. Scott Schebler singled and Steve Selsky doubled for one run. Tucker Barnhart walked and Stephenson bunted the runners to third and second.
JOSE PERAZA SINGLED TO left, scoring Selsky with the tying run, but left fielder Chris Coghan threw Barnhart out at home.
The Cubs took a 3-2 lead in the third on catcher Miguel Montero’s run-scoring single and made it 4-2 when Dexter Fowler led the fourth with a home run.
When he gave up a two-out single to Ben Zobrist in the fourth Stephenon’s night was over.
Relief pitcher Michael Lorenzen balked a run home in the fifth and Montero banged a two-out 3-and-2 two-run single in the sixth. Montero, a .212 hitter, had three hits and drove in thee runs. That made it 7-2.
ROSS OHLENDORF STARTED THE seventh inning and quickly gave up his obligatory home run. But first he gave up a single to Dexter Fowler. Then Kris Bryant crash-landed a home run onto Waveland Avenue beyond the left field bleachers to make it 9-2.
It was Bryant’s 38th home run, 10 against the Reds. The Cubs have hit 37 home runs this year against the Reds, one shy of the most hit by a team in one season against the Reds.
And, of course he two home runs extended the number of home runs hit off Reds pitchers this year to 244, the all-time record.
John Lackey gave up two runs two runs and five hits over seven innings to record his 10th victory. All five Cubs statrers now have 10 or more victories.