By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — For seven innings Thursday night, it looked as if the Cincinnati Reds were stuffed and mounted.
Jake Arrieta, Brian Duensing and Carl Edwards Jr. had the Reds hog-tied, holding them to one run and four hits.
Then Pedro Strop happened. Usually when Strop shows up, the Reds fold up.
But the Cubs’ set-up relief pitcher gave up three runs in the eighth inning and the Reds escaped a three-game sweep, pulling this one out, 4-2.
The marquee play was a first-pitch two-run double by pinch-hitter Jose Peraza that turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead.
Strop retired the first two Reds in the eighth, the second out a diving catch by right fielder Jason Heyward to snatch a hit away from Joey Votto.
But Adam Duvall singled and Scooter Gennett doubled to the left field corner, putting runners on third and second with two outs.
There were two fateful decision by Cubs manager Joe Maddon in this inning. First of all, he left Ian Happ in center fielder, a good-hit, no-field player. He had Albert Almora Jr., an outstanding defender. But he left him in the dugout.
And he decided to intentionally walk Eugenio Suarez ahead of pinch-hitter Jose Peraza — and Peraza took umbrage. The ball he hit was deep, but very high, time enough for an outfielder to get under. Happ never got under it and it fell for a two-run double.
Asked if it fired him up when the Cubs walked Suarez in front of him, he smiled broadly and said, “Yes, as soon as I saw that, I took a deep breath and said, ‘I’m just going to make good contact and good things are going to happen.
“I just tried to make good contact and it happened,” he said. “I was just looking for a fastball. He is a really good pitcher with a really good fastball and I was ready for that.”
Manager Bryan Price was not overly ecstatic to see Strop come into the game.
“When Joe brings in Strop he has pitched unbelievably against us,” said Price. “His history against us is unbelievable — we have a lot of 1 for 10s and 0 for 10s with a lot of strikeouts. Then, here comes Peraza. A big moment.”
There was an operatta called Naughty Marietta decades ago and the modern version for the Reds is Naughty Arrieta.
When Jake Arrieta took the mound Thursday night, the Cubs were 5-and-0 in Great American Ball Park for Arrieta’s last five starts in GABP.
And Arrieta, as usual, was outstanding. But so was Reds rookie starter Sal Romano.
After an outstanding duel, neither Arrieta nor Romano was involved in a decision, but Romano’s performance was a welcome sight for the Reds.
Arrieta worked 5 2/3 innings and gave up four hits, one unearned run, walked three and struck out eight. Romano nearly matched him pitch-for-pitch — seven innings, two earned runs, six hits, three walks seven strikeouts.
“Sal was really good very early on,” said Price. “He was on the attack. And that’s the only way to find out if you can pitch up here — throw it over and let your defense play behind you and the hitters will tell you what you need to improve upon and he was very aggressive in the zone.”
It was the second straight excellent seven-inning out for Romano and he was smiling broadly as she stood at his post-game locker.
“This absolutely boosts my confidence,” he said. “I’ve tried to be more consistent and I have my feet wet now. It is time to stay consistent and go into the off-season giving the team something to think about me for next year.
“What I did tonight, that’s pitching,” he said. “I got ahead of hitters and was able to use all my stuff. When you fall behind you have to throw fastballs in there and hope they miss them. I was able to stay ahead of most of the hitters.”
It was obvious it was going to be a long night for the Reds when Arrieta struck out the first four Reds he faced, six of the first nine, and had a perfect game for three innings.
Ian Happ, who attended the University of Cincinnati, cracked his 19th home run on the first pitch he saw with one out in the second inning to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
The Reds broke through against Arrieta in the fourth when Zack Cozart reached second on a two-base error by third baseman Kris Bryant, a hard smash off his body. Joey Votto then singled home Cozart to tie it, 1-1.
Romano had runners on third and second with two outs in the sixth and manager Bryan Price decided to intentionally walk Happ. The next hitter, Javier Baez, just like Peraza, took umbrage on the snub and lined the first pitch after the walk into left field for a run-scoring single and a 2-1 Cubs lead.
The Reds threatened in the sixth with the Cozart-Votto combination again. Cozart opened the inning with a single. Votto shot one off the left field wall.
Cozart, slowed tremendously by a sore right quad, was limping as he hit third base, but third base coach Billy Hatcher decided to take the gamble and sent him. Cozart, limping even more, was easily thrown out at home.
Still in the sixth, Cubs manager Joe Maddon tempted fate the same way Price did by having Scooter Gennett intentionally walked with a runner on second and two outs.
Arrieta then walked Eugenion Suarez to fill the bases and Arrieta was removed. Left hander Brian Duensing came on to retire Jesse Winker on a fielder’s choice ground ball that preserved Chicago’s 2-1 lead.
After Arrieta it was more of the same from relief pitcher Carl Edwards Jr. He pitched a 1-2-3 seventh with two strikeouts.
Strop, though, wasn’t the fail safe for the Cubs on this night.