By HAL McCOY
The Cincinnati Reds dance party against the Chicago Cubs ended Saturday afternoon with a late game fizzle, like a firecracker with its wick dipped in water.
After building leads of 5-0, 7-2 and 7-4, the Reds gave up four runs in the eighth inning and lost, 8-7.
Thus endeth their fun against the Cubs, five straight wins and a 7-and-3 record against them when the day began.
Obviously, though, it doesn’t pay that many dividends to jump ahead early against the Cubs. They have come from behind in their last eight victories and they have 27 come-from-behind wins this season, most in the majors.
Everything came unstitched in the eighth inning when, with a three-run lead, relief pitcher Amir Garrett walked the first two batters, both batting in the bottom third of the order, both on 3-and-2 pitches. Pinch-hitter David Bote punched a single to right to load the bases.
Manager Jim Riggleman pulled Garrett and brought in Jared Hughes. He immediately gave up a two-run double to Ben Zobrist, cutting the lead to 7-6.
Hughes struck out Albert Almora Jr. Javier Baez hit one hard to the mound that ricocheted off Hughes glove and everybody was safe and the tying run scored.
With two outs and runners on third and first, Hughes jumped ahead of Anthony Rizzo 0-and-2. Wisely, Chicago manager Joe Maddon had Baez running on the next pitch to avoid a double play.
It worked. Rizzo grounded to second but Scooter Gennett had to throw to first base to get Rizzo and the go-ahead (and winning) run scored.
The Reds scored two extremely unconventional runs in the first inning against Chicago starter Tyler Chatwood. With the bases loaded, he threw back-to-back 55-foot pitches in the dirt that went to the backstop and a run scored on each one.
The Reds made it 5-0 in the third on Eugenio Suarez’s 18th home run, a three-run rip that gave him a league-leading 66 RBI.
Meanwhile Reds starter Matt Harvey was showing what pitching is all about. The Cubs put runners on base against in all six innings he started but only scored in the fourth.
They scored two on a single by Kyle Schwarber, a run-scoring double Victor Caratini (he moved to third on Scooter Gennett’s error fielding the ball after the hit) and Addison Russell’s ground ball.
Joey Votto doubled to open the fifth and scored on Jesse Winker’s single to make it 6-2 and Billy Hamilton beat an infield single to open the sixth, stole second and scored on Votto’s single to make it 7-2.
Hamilton, who had three hits and a walk in the series opener Friday, had three more hits and three stolen bases Saturday.
The Reds offense took the rest of the day off and the Cubs began chipping away.
With one out in the sixth, right fielder Scott Schebler lost Addison Russell’ fly ball in the sun and it plopped to the grass for a double. Chicago relief pitcher Randy Rosario contributed his first major-league hit, a run-scoring single to cut Cincinnati’s lead to 7-3.
With David Hernandez on the mound for the seventh, Javier Baez led the inning with his 17th home run and it was 7-4.
Riggleman immediately went to Amir Garrett and he retired three straight, two on strikeouts.
He wasn’t the same in the eighth when he opened the inning by walking both Caratini and Russell, igniting Chicago’s four-run game-winning rally.
Chicago’s hard-throwing closer, Brandon Morrow used some 100 miles an hour fastballs to go 1-2-3 in the ninth for his 20th save in 21 opportunities. However, Scooter Gennett should have been on first base with one out. He struck out on a checked swing at a pitch in the dirt. It eluded catcher Caratini, but Gennett didn’t know it until he was too late and Caratini threw him out at first base.
Harvey pitched 5 2/3 innings and gave up three runs and nine hits, but he left with a 5-2 lead. Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood gave up all seven runs, nine hits and four walks, throwing 120 pitches in 5 2/3 innings and was behind, 7-2, when he departed.
In addition to Hamilton’s big day, Votto had two hits, scored two and drove in one, Gennett had two hits and scored two and Suarez had two hits, two walks and drove in three with his home run.
All that offense, though, was washed away by the unusual shaky work by the bullpen.