By HAL McCOY
It was inevitable that Sunday afternoon’s baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds would end in a bizarre way.
And it did. Reds relief pitcher Jackson Stephens walked David Brote on a full count with the bases loaded in the 10th inning, a walk-off walk that gave the Cubs a 6-5 victory in Wrigley Field.
The finish was set-up on a strange error by Reds first baseman Joey Votto. With one out and runners on third and second, Addison Russell grounded to first.
Votto fielded and looked to third to hold the runner and trotted toward first, trying to extract the baseball for a possible throw. He bobbled the ball, but Russell was called out at first for what appeared to be the second out.
But an umpire review revealed that Votto bobbled the ball as he stepped on first and Russell was ruled safe, filling the bases. Bote, a late-inning double switch insertion, then drew the game-ending walk.
Stephens tempted his fate by walking the first batter of the 10th, Willson Contreras, on five pitches. Then he threw a wild pitch to put Contreras on second.
He struck out Victor Caratini and Ian Happ was walked intentionally. Then came Votto’s bobble and then came the loss.
The Reds escaped an identical situation in the ninth when the Cubs had runners on second and third with one out. Manager Jim Riggleman employed a six-man infield, placing outfielder Adam Duvall behind second base and it worked.
Javier Baez grounded to second and Scooter Gennett’s throw home was in the dirt but catcher Curt Casali scooped it. The Cubs asked for a review to see if Casali bobbled the ball or didn’t have his foot on home plate. The out call was confirmed. Anthony Rizzo lined to center to end the inning at 5-5.
Riggleman again employed with six-man infield in the 10th but he could have used an eight-man infield and it wouldn’t have worked because of the walk.
It was a wild, wild, wild one all day. The Cubs led, 2-0. The Reds led 3-2. It was tied 3-3. The Reds led, 4-3. The Cubs led 5-4.
With the Cubs leading, 5-4, in the ninth, Adam Duvall tied it with a leadoff home run off Cubs closer Brandon Morrow, who was 20 for 21 in safe situations. Scott Schebler singled with one out and stole second, but Jose Peraza struck out to end the inning.
Reds starter Luis Castillo put up a dull performance — four innings, three runs, six hits, two walks, three strikeouts, 83 pitches in four innings.
With the Cubs leading, 2-1, in the fourth, Eugenio Suarez picked on a 3-and-0 pitch from Cubs starter Jon Lester and drove a two-run home run into the left field bleachers. It was Suarez’s first career hit on a 3-and-0 count.
And on this day, Billy Hamilton taketh and Billy Hamilton giveth away.
With the score 3-3 in the fifth with two outs and nobody on, Hamilton walked. He then scored from first base on a stolen base. He stole second, too third on catcher Willson Contreras’ throwing error and continued home when center fielder Albert Almora Jr. bobbled the ball while retrieving the catcher’s throw.
That gave the Reds a 4-3 lead but Hamilton gave it back in the seventh. There were two outs and nobody on but Almora singled against Michael Lorenzen. Riggleman brought in lefty specialist Kyle Crockett to face lefty Jason Heyward. He singled to put runners on second and first.
Riggleman brought in David Hernandez and Javier Baez singled to center, scoring Almora. But Hamilton lobbed a throw into second base and Heyward never stopped, scoring from first — a two-run gaffe that put the Cubs ahead, 5-4.
Then came Duvall’s home run and then came the walk-off walk.
Amazingly, the Reds had won nine straight final games of a series until Sunday and they lost the series, two games to one and all three games were decided by one run.
And after winning five straight from the Cubs, the Reds dropped the last two.