By HAL McCOY
It was almost deja vu all over again for the Cincinnati Reds Saturday in Wrigley Field. Instead it was deja whew for the Chicago Cubs.
On Friday, the Cubs broke a tie game with a run in the eighth inning, only to have Eugenio Suarez hit a two-run home run in the ninth to push the Reds to a 6-5 victory.
On Saturday, the Cubs broke a tie game with two runs in the eighth, only to have the first two Reds reach base with singles in the ninth.
Another game in which the Reds snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat Not this time.
The uprising died when Jesse Winker hit into his second rally-killing double play and Yasiel Puig popped out to end it, an 8-6 Cubs victory.
After starter Tyler Mahle struggled through five innings, giving up six runs and nine hits that included three home runs, Michael Lorenzen came out of the bullpen to pitch two perfect innings.
It was 6-6 when Jared Hughes trudged to the mound and he retired the first batter. He had Albert Almora Jr. 1-and-2, but walked him, only Almora’s eighth walk all season.
On his first pitch to Addison Russell, Russell stunned the Reds by pushing a bunt up the third base line for a hit, his first bunt in four years.
On the next pitch, David Bote, batting for the first time after being part of a double switch, slammed one into the left field gap for a run-scoring double. Kyle Schwarber hit a sacrifice fly to center and it was 8-6.
Was it over? Well, Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s bullpen is ravaged and his team already had blown two games in the ninth inning earlier this week.
He brought in former starter Tyler Chatwood to close it out, a guy who had walked 18 batters in 27 innings. And he had to face the same two batters who beat the Cubs Friday — Votto, who walked ahead of Suarez’s game-winning home run.
He didn’t issue any walks, but Joey Votto banged a leadoff single up the middle, Votto’s third hit to go with two he had Friday. Suarez followed with a stinging second to left.
Two on, no outs. But Winker hit into the double play and Puig popped out.
The Reds took a 2-0 lead in the second inning against Cubs starter Yu Darvish when Tucker Barnhart dunked the biscuit in the basket, dropping a two-run home run into the basket that fronts the Wrigley Field outfield walls.
With the wind blowing out, it figured to be a day of round-trippers and it was.
Albert Almora Jr. drove one into the right-center seats in the third, a two-out home run to cut the Reds lead to 2-1. Giving up two-out runs has ruined many of Mahle’s outings and it surfaced again.
The Cubs forged ahead in the fourth when No. 8 hitter Addison Russell crushed a 0-and-2 pitch the opposite way, a two-run home run to right-center and the Cubs led, 3-2.
And they weren’t done in that inning. With two outs and nobody on, Mahle gave up four straight hits, punctuated by a two-run double by Anthony Rizzo and it was 5-2. Mahle leads the National League in giving up two-out runs, 21 of them.
Votto and Suarez opened fifth with singles, but Winker rehearsed his ninth-inning at bat by hitting into a double play. Yasiel Puig saved the inning by bombing Waveland Avenue behind the left field bleachers with a two-run home run and the Reds were within 5-4.
Mahle gave up his third home run of the game when Jason Heyward dropped one into the basket leading off the fifth to push the Cubs up, 6-4.
The Reds scored one in the fifth on Tucker Barnhart’s double and Nick Senzel’s single and tied it, 6-6, in the eighth on Derek Dietrich’s home run.
With his bullpen a mess, Maddon permitted Darvish to start the eighth, even though when he retired the first batter in the seventh it was as far as he has gone in any game this year.
And Darvish, in his second season with the Cubs and making his 19th start, hasn’t yet won a game in Wrigley Field.
After Dietrich’s home run the Reds had Darvish in a neutral corner when Jose Iglesias singled with no outs. But Barnhart struck out and Jose Peraza swung and missed a pitch on a hit-and-run and Iglesias was thrown out at second base.
So, it stayed 6-6 until the Cubs came to bat in the bottom of the eighth and put the two winning runs across home plate.
The Reds, the only team to take a series from the Cubs in Chicago’s last 13 series — two games to one on the Reds last homestand — can still win this series two games to one when they send Tanner Roark to the mound Sunday afternoon.