By HAL McCOY
If there can be any positive taken from a 9-5 beating, it should be a lesson hard-learned by Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Amir Garrett.
The lesson? Don’t let an umpire upset your equilibrium and don’t outwardly display your displeasure.
That’s what happened to Garrett Thursday afternoon in Wrigley Field. Brought up from Class AAA Louisville to apply a tourniquet to his team’s losing ways, Garrett was visibly upset with 27-year veteran umpire Ed Hickox’s strike zone in the first inning.
HEY, AMIR, HICKOX WAS an Eagle Scout sworn to honesty and integrity. Would he cheat you?
And the endgame was that Garrett gave up three walks and a grand slam home run to Javier Baez during a five-run first inning.
Garrett couldn’t get a strike call on some close inside pitches in the first inning.
After retiring the first hitter, Garrett thought he had a couple of strikes on Kris Bryant but walked him a full count.
ANTHONY RIZZO BLOOPED ONE to right field that everybody lost in the sun and it fell for a single.
Garrett retired Ian Happ on a line drive to right field and he was one out away from escaping with no damage.
But Garrett walked Wilson Contreras on a full count — disputing a couple more close calls — to fill the bases. Then he walked Addison Russell to force in a run.
He got to 1-and-2 on Javier Baez and hung a changeup and Baez lost it deep into the left field bleachers for a grand slam home run and a quick 5-0 lead for the Cubs.
IN THE FOURTH INNING Hickox called Albert Almora Jr., and Ben Zobrist out on strikes and Garrett raised his hands as if to say, “Those were the same pitches you wouldn’t give me in the first inning.”
The Cubs added on until it was 9-0 after five innings.
Garrett pitched four innings and gave up five runs, six hits and four walks to drop his record to 3-3 and raising his earned run average to 5.18.
Cubs starter Jon Lester took that 9-0 lead into the seventh inning and gave up three straight singles to Jose Peraza, Tucker Barnhart and pinch-hitter Arismendy Alcantara for a run and Lester’s day was done.
Hector Rondon gave up three hits, a double to Billy Hamilton and singles to Adam Duvall and Eugenio Suarez during a four-run inning, six-hit inning.
Too little, too late, even though the Reds made it squirmy in the ninth. They filled the bases with no outs against lefthanded relief pitcher Brian Duensing.
Billy Hamilton and Zack Cozart singled and Joey Votto was hit by a pitch, forcing Cubs manager Joe Maddon to bring in Koji Uehara.
Adam Duvall flied to left in foul territory and Hamilton scored after the catch. Eugenio Suarez took a called strike three. Pinch-hitter Stuart Turner struck out and that was that.
The fact that Turner pinch-hit instead of Devin Mesoraco indicates that Mesoraco’s injury is more serious than thought.
The Reds won the first game of the trip, 3-2, in San Francisco, then they lost the next three to the Giants and three straight in Chicago, giving up 25 runs in the three games and bringing home a six-game losing streak.
They play a quick five-game homestand and it won’t be easy. They play three against the Colorado Rockies, a team leading the National League West and owner of a 9-and-0 record in one-run games. Then they play the Cleveland Indians Monday and Tuesday.