By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — If the Cincinnati Reds can’t protect a 9-0 lead against the Chicago Cubs, how in the name of Eppa Rixey can they be expected to guard a couple of three-run leads.
Well, they didn’t on a long and miserable Tuesday night in Great American Ball Park.
After twice leading by three runs, Michael Lorenzen and Wandy Peralta were punched for four runs in the seventh inning and it led to a 13-9 defeat. The game droned on and on and on for four hours and four excruciating minutes.
IT WAS ONLY LAST WEEK that the Reds led the Cubs, 9-0, in Wrigley Field, only to have the Cubs come stomping back to tie the game. But the Reds were resilient that day and won, 13-10.
That wasn’t the case Tuesday night in Great American Ball Park during the opener of a three-game series.
The Reds led, 3-0, after three innings, scoring a run in each of the three innings.
REDS STARTER HOMER BAILEY pitched the first three innings and held the Cubs to no runs and one hit. But he felt tightness in the back of his right shoulder and was removed as a precautionary maneuver with the Reds in front, 3-0.
The shell-shocked and arm-weary Reds bullpen pitched the final six innings and gave up 13 runs, 12 hits and eight walks. And it was the 20th time this season the Reds have given up 10 or more runs.
BAILEY FELT SOMETHING foreign throwing a pitch to opposing pitcher John Lackey early in the third inning. Trainer Steve Baumann came out and Bailey threw a couple of practice pitches and stayed in to face three more hitters. But he didn’t come back out for the fourth.
“I kind of felt a tweak, if you will,” said Bailey. “I was a little unsure and asked to throw a couple of pitches without a hitter in there. It felt fine and I finished the inning. So we’re just being cautious. I’ll know more tomorrow. But it was to the point that if I kept going maybe I can’t make my next start or the following one.”
Manager Bryan Price is confident Bailey will be back for his next start and the disabled list is not on the table.
“It was debatable if he could go back out, but it was obvious he shouldn’t go back out, not on the road he has traveled to this point,” said Price. “We think it is just a little irritation and we’re not signing off on him on missing his next start.
“Hopefully by taking him out we avoided something that would have cost him considerable time,” Price added. “We were just concerned that he might do some long-term damage that would affect him the rest of the season.”
THE CUBS SCORED THREE runs in the fifth inning against Kevin Shackelford and Lorenzen to tie it, 3-3.
Eugenio Suarez quickly untied it in the bottom of the fifth with a three-run home run against Cubs starter John Lackey to push the Reds in front, 6-3.
The Cubs cut it to 6-4 in the sixth and cut loose in the seventh.
Lorenzen issued a one-out walk to Anthony Rizzo and Peralta came in. He struck out Ian Happ for the second out.
But. . .Alex Avila singled on a full count. Jason Heyward singled off Peralta’s body to load the bases.
Peralta had Javier Baez 0-and-2, but fell to 3-and-2 and Baez dunked a broken-bat two-run single to shallow right to tie it, 6-6. Pinch-hitter Ben Zobrist doubled to right center for two runs and an 8-6 Cubs margin.
BLAKE WOOD MADE CERTAIN in the eighth inning that the Reds ‘wood-n’t’ come back in this one.
He walked the first three Cubs on 14 pitches — two strikes, 12 balls. Then he gave up three straight singles for three runs and hit umpire Bill Miller on top of the head with a wild pitch to let in a fourth run.
At this point he had faced six batters and all reached base and four had scored. No outs, two on.
Finally. . .mercifully. . .he struck out Javier Baez on a 3-and-2 pitch for the first out. He got the second out on a ground ball, but the 13th run scored, the fifth of the inning and the ninth of the last two innings.
WOOD HAS BEEN HIGHLY deficient and ineffective over his last seven or eight appearances and it does concern Price.
“Yeah, it has been tough on Blake and it is hard to watch because he puts his heart and soul into what he does,” said Price. “He is totally invested, so to watch him struggle like this is a challenge. We’ve seen enough of him to know he is better than he is pitching right now.”
THERE WAS A TOUCH OF LEVITY in a not-so-funny night. Before the game Scooter Gennett said it was his dog’s birthday and Leo, a Golden-doodle, asked for a home run. And Gennett delivered in the third to give the Reds a 3-0 lead.
Then the entire game became a dog.
When was the last time anybody saw a left handed third baseman? The game was such a pooch that Cubs manager Joe Maddon moved left handed first baseman Anthony Rizzo to play third base in the ninth inning.
The very few who stayed until the end were treated to a pinch-hit home run by Jesse Winker with one out in the ninth inning and a two-run home run by Eugenio Suarez, his second home run of the night and 23rd on the season.
He had three hits and drove in a career-high five runs — and he didn’t even promise anything to his dog.