McCoy: Reds Post A Rare One-Run Win, Stop Cubs, 5-4

By Hal McCoy

If ever there was a window of opportunity for the Cincinnati Reds, it is right now and that’s a picture window standing wide-open.

When the Reds opened a three-game series Friday afternoon with a breath-holding 5-4 win over the Chicago Cubs, it began a string of 10 games against struggling opponents.

After three games in Wrigley Field, the park that made Ernie Banks and ivy famous, the Reds play three at last-place Colorado and four at home against the Cubs.

The Cubs have lost eight of their last nine and 13 of 17, but nearly pulled this one out of the loss column in a fun-filled ninth inning.

Elly De La Cruz is ensnared in a massive offensive cold front and struck out three more times Friday to lead the league with 77.

But his fire hose arm saved this one.

The Reds led, 5-3, in the ninth when the Cubs came to bat against closer Alexis Diaz, who has a penchant for making his teammates sweat.

Pete Crow-Armstrong opened the inning with a second-pitch single to right and Diaz walked pinch-hitter Michael Busch on a full count.

That put two on with no outs. It appeared Diaz hit pinch-hitter Nick Madrigal with a pitch, but umpire Brennan Miller called it a foul ball. Replay/Review confirmed the foul, earning Chicago’s $40 million manager, Craig Counsell, an ejected for protesting.

Madrigal then forced Busch at second, placing runners on third and first.

Seiya Suzuki pulled a base hit to left field, where Jacob Hurtubise had just entered the game. He cut the ball off in the corner. Crow-Armstrong scored easily.

Madrigal tried to score the tying run from first. Hurtubise fired to the cut-off man, De La Cruz. And his rocket launcher of an arm easily wiped out the runner at home, preserving the 5-4 lead.

That brought up the ever-dangerous Cody Bellinger and he lined the second pitch to right fielder Jake Fraley and the Reds had the win. . .a one-run win.

The significance? The Reds had lost 10 straight one-run gams and were 1-11 for the season. The Cubs lost their 12th one-run run, but also have won 10.

And the Cubs have lost 30 games, 16 attached to the bullpen and this time it was left-hander Drew Smyly.

The Cubs jumped to a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Reds starter Graham Ashcraft gave up a two-run home run to University of Cincinnati product and Reds slayer Ian Happ, his 29th career homer against the Reds.

The Reds tied it, 2-2, in the fourth against Cubs starrter Javier Assad (4-1, 2.17). During the season, opposing hitters batted .107 against him with runners in scoring position, only three hits, all singles.

With runners on second and first, Tyler Stephenson poked a 3-and-0 pitch into right field for a run and Nick Martini followed with another run-scoring single with a runner in scoring position.

The Cubs forged ahead, 3-2, in fifth without a hit. Ashcraft hit Yan Gomes (0 for 18 with a .158 batting average), to open the inning. Then he walked two to fill the bases.

Fernando Cruz replaced Ashcraft and after getting Happ 0-and-2, he walked him forcing in the go-ahead run.

That’s where it stood until the seventh when Smyly walked India on a full count. Manager David Bell sent Santiago Espinal to pinch-hit for Will Benson.

It was Espinal’s first day ever in Wrigley and he spent as little time as possible in the batter’s box. He picked on Smyly’s first pitch and sent a free baseball to the Bleacher Bums in left field and a 4-3 lead.

That one was 385 feet. Espinal helped provide an important fifth run, as it turned out, with a 25-footer. It was a sacrifice bunt in the top of the ninth that pushed Hurtubinse (running for India after he doubled) to third base. He scored when T.J. Friedl poked a single to left.

Friedl was 0 for 7 with four strikeouts at the time, since coming back from his broken thumb. His hit made it 5-3, a needed run when the Cubs scored in the ninth.

Espinal, playing second base in the ninth inning, witnessed the crucial wipe-out at home plate of Madrigal.

“That was clutch. . .Elly’s got the arm,” he said during a post-game interview with Bally SportsOhio. “Hurtubise made a nice throw, too. We got the job done.”

Of his home run and sacrifice bunt, Espinal said, “Y’know, it’s my first time here and I felt a different vibe. Got my first hit here, my first homer here at Wrigley and we got the W.

“I knew he (Smyly) would try to get something up and in the middle. I saw it right away and was trying to be aggressive and I hit it,” he said.

It was also his first pinch-hit home run and he smiled broadly as he said, “A very good time for it. We just gotta keep in rolling.”

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