By HAL McCOY
Just one night after the Cincinnati Reds played their worst game of the season — and that’s saying a ton — they played one of their best 24 hours later.
And most of it can be placed on the strong right arm of rookie pitcher Luis Castillo, who had the Chicago Cubs walking back to the dugout muttering expletives.
Castillo, pitching with the moxie and confidence of a three-time Cy Young Award winner, shut out the Cubs on no runs and two hits over six innings, walking two and striking out seven.
The Reds won it, 2-1, one night after losing to the Cubs, 15-5. And such is baseball.
THEY SHOULD CHANGE THE rules right now. Nobody deserves a win more than Castillo did Tuesday. But when he left the game it was still 0-0 and the Reds didn’t score their first run until the eighth inning. Michael Lorenzen scarfed up the win by pitching just one inning but giving up two hits, but no runs.
As usual, though, it wasn’t easy. The bullpen tried to undo everything Castillo did.
The Reds led, 2-0, entering the bottom of the ninth with closer Raisel Iglesias pitching in his second inning.
Wandy Peralta walked the first two batters in faced in the eighth and after he struck out Ian Happ, Iglesias took over. He hit a batter to load the bases with two outs before striking out rookie catcher Victor Caratini, leaving the bases loaded.
It was worse in the ninth. Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward opened the ninth with singles. Javier Baez bunted the runners to third and second.
Ben Zobrist singled home a run and the Cubs had the tying run at third and the winning run at first with one out. But Iglesias humped it up and struck out Jon Jay and pinch-hitter Alex Avila.
IT WAS THE 21ST SAVE IN 22 opportunities for Iglesias and his ninth of more than one inning, tying LA’s Kenley Jansen for most in the league.
And the Reds? It was their first victory in Wrigley Field this year after seven straight losses.
As good as Castillo was for six innings, Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks was nearly as good. He, too, pitched six scoreless innings, giving up no runs, five hits, four walks and struck out six.
Neither team advanced a runner to third base through six innings — that’s how good both pitchers were.
IT ENDED FOR BOTH TEAMS in the seventh when both teams had a runner on third, but neither scored.
Eugenio Suarez opened the seventh with a full count walk and took third on Adam Duvall’s single to left.
That put Reds on third and first with no outs. They didn’t score because Carl Edwards, Jr., replaced Hendricks and, in order, struck out Tucker Barnhart, pinch-hitter Patrick Kivlehan and Billy Hamilton.
Then it was Chicago’s turn and Castillo’s replacement, Michael Lorenzen, gave up an infield single to Victor Caratini and a solid single to left by Albert Almora Jr.
But there was a mammoth play on that hit. Caratini took third, but left fielder Adam Duvall threw Almora out at second base. It was Duvall’s 11th assist, most for an outfielder in the majors.
So instead of first and third with no outs, the Cubs had a runner on third with one out. Jason Heyward lined to second and Javier Baez grounded to short and the Cubs didn’t score.
THE REDS FRACTURED THE scoreless tie in the eighth against Pedro Strop. With one out, he walked Joey Votto on a full count. Votto walked three times, so his streak of getting on base at least twice each game reached 20, one shy of the major league record. Over those 20 games Votto has been on base 53 times.
Adam Duvall singled Votto to third and he scored the game’s first run on Scooter Gennett’s sacrifice fly to right center.
THE REDS SCORED ANOTHER run in the ninth — a huge run, as it turned out. Jesse Winker walked on a full count to open the inning. Tucker Barnhart popped up on a bunt attempt. Jose Peraza dumped a ground rule double down the right field line, sending Winker to third, and he scored on Billy Hamilton’s single to left that made it 2-0.
Then came the eventful ninth and Iglesias’ dramatic strikeout of Avila with the potential tying run on third.
The night, though, belonged to Castillo, who did his best Mario Soto imitation by baffling the Cubs with high velocity fastballs and well-located changeups.
“Of all the things he brings to the table, the thing with him is the intangibles, his makeup,” manager Bryan Price told Fox Sports Ohio in the post-game media scrum. “He is willing to throw the ball over. He does all the minutiae — fielding his position, holding the runners, handling the bat. He is just a lot of fun to watch.”
Not if you were wearing a Cubs uniform.