By HAL McCOY
The Cincinnati Reds were so lucky Monday night in Wrigley Field that they should look for loose change on the Lake Michigan beach.
They might find a fortune.
Everything that could go their way Monday night against the Chicago Cubs went their way, leading to an important 6-3 victory.
They were down 3-2 in the seventh inning when the Cubs made two errors that led to two runs and a 4-3 lead.
Then a misplay by the Cubs with two outs in the eighth inning led to two insurance runs that the Reds accepted graciously.
And if the Reds could play the division-leading Cubs every day they could be printing playoff tickets right now. The Reds are 7-and-3 against the Cubs so far this season.
When the Reds are a little down and out, the perfect antidote is Luis Castillo and the Cubs were fed a large dose of the All-Star pitcher.
He was not at his best, if one can say 10 strikeouts in six innings is not being at his best. But he was in trouble several times and mostly pitched his way out of it.
He gave up three runs and seven hits and his perseverance earned him his ninth victory of the season as the Reds cut their deficit to 5 1/2 games in the National League Central.
The first three Reds runs came on solo home runs. There was a first-inning shot by Eugenio Suarez. Then there was a fortunate lob down the line into the basket in front of the left field brick wall by Yasiel Puig in the sixth.
Then there was a big blast on a first-pitch of the inning tie-breaking blast by Curt Casali in the seventh, tying the game 3-3.
After Suarez gave the Reds a 1-0 lead, Middletown native Kyle Schwarber tied it with a two-out home run in the third.
A couple of Castillo walks and a wild pitch that scored a run permitted the Cubs to score two in the fourth for a 3-1 lead.
Then came the home run by Puig and Casali to tie it, 3-3. That’s when the Cubs became generous.
Pinch-hitter Jesse Winker singled and shortstop Javier Baez booted a ground ball by Nick Senzel. Eugenio Suarez hit what should have been an inning-ending double play, but third baseman David Bote botched the ground ball and Winker scored the go-ahead run.
There was more Chicago-style charity in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Phillip Ervin singled. With two outs pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer popped a foul that should have been the third out.
Instead, catcher Victor Caratini and first baseman Anthony Rizzo permitted the ball to crash land on the grass. Farmer then doubled home Ervin and Michael Lorenzen singled for another run and a 6-3 lead.
Manager David Bell had the Midas touch on this night. He sent three pinch-hitters to the plate and all three delivered hits. Farmer’s hit was his ninth pinch-hit this season.
The escape acts by the Reds?
Castillo loaded the bases with one in the sixth then methodically struck out David Bote and pinch-hitter Robel Garcia. Of his 10 strikeouts, six came with runners on base and eight were on change-ups. The Cubs went 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position.
Michael Lorenzen took the mound for the seventh and walk a batter and hit a batter, but ended that problem by getting Victor Caratini on a hard line drive to right.
Lorenzen started the eighth and put two on with one out. Raisel Iglesias took over and quickly got a double play on a line drive to third baseman Eugenio Suarez hit by pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr.
Iglesias finished it quickly in the ninth, a 1-2-3 inning during which he struck out Javier Baez and and Kris Bryant. That gave Iglesias, a seven-game loser, 17 saves in 19 chances.
There was an interesting sidelight in the ninth. Cubs relief pitcher Pedro Strop faced Yasiel Puig. The last time they faced each other, Strop hit Puig with a pitch. Puig took umbrage and had to be held back from doing bodily harm to anything wearing blue.
After the game, Strop called Puig stupid three or four times, injecting some expletives between the stupids.
Revenge belonged to Puig. He singled off Strop.