McCoy: Reds Hold Off Cubs, 6-5, Increase NLC Lead to 1 1/2 Games

By Hal McCoy
Contributing Writer

On a rare night when Andrew Abbott was off his game, the ever-efficient Cincinnati Reds bullpen came to his rescue Monday night in Wrigley Field.

Abbott lasted only three innings and gave up four runs, but the Reds scored six in the first three innings off Marcus Stroman and made them stand up for a 6-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs, the Reds’ 24th one-run win against 21 losses.

It was a productive victory because the Milwaukee Brewers lost again, this time by 5-3 to the Washington Nationals, and the Reds increased their lead in the National League Central to 1 1/2 games.

And it put a temporary halt on Chicago’s encroachment on the Reds. By winning eight of their previous nine game, the Cubs had crept to within four games of the Reds, but dropped to five behind.

The Reds bullpen brigade was in full bloom as Buck Farmer, Fernando Cruz, Alex Young, Lucas Sims, Ian Gibaut and Alex Diaz held the Cubs to one run over the last six innings.

There were, though, some shaky moments.
With the Reds up, 6-4, Lucas Sims put the first two Cubs on base in the seventh by hitting Nick Madrigal with his first pitch and walking Nico Hoerner on a full count.

He found the escape hatch by striking out Seiya Suzuki and Ian Happ and getting a pop-up from Cody Bellinger, who was hitting .406 in July.

Ian Gibaut put himself and the Reds in the danger zone in the eighth when he gave up a one-out double to Yan Gomes and a double to Christopher Morel that cut Cincinnati’s lead to 6-5.

And the Cubs had the tying run on second with one out. Gibaut struck out Mike Tauchman and induced a weak grounder to first from Madrigal.

All that was left was for closer Alexis Diaz to do his thing and he did it for the 32nd time in quick fashion. Facing the top of the order, he struck out Hoerner, got a fly ball from Suzuki and a game-ending ground ball from Happ for the save.

A season ago, Diaz’s brother, Edwin, was a sensation in New York with 32 saves for the Mets. Alexis had 32 in 33 opportunities with two months left in the season.

Stroman started the season 9-4 with a 2.28 earned run average but has since fallen on tough times — 1-3 with an 8.00 ERA since then entering Monday’s game.

And he lived up to his recent doldrums. He retired the first five Reds. He had two outs and nobody on in the second.

Then the Reds went to work with four straight hits that plated three runs.

Suddenly resurgent Joey Votto started it with a single and hustled to third on Christian Encarnacion-Strand’s single.

Will Benson doubled for a run and Luke Maile doubled for two more, giving Abbott a 3-0 lead.

Abbott gave up a leadoff home run in the second to Dansby Swanson, then struck out the side.

The Reds scored three more in the third off Stroman. TJ Friedl walked and moved to second on Matt McLain’s grounder. Jake Fraley singled, scoring Friedl.

Fraley, the team leader wirth 63 RBI, stole second to take the team leadership in thefts with 19. Stroman walked Spencer Steer on a full count. Votto singled for a run and the Reds sixth run scored on Encarnacion-Strqnd’s ground ball.

That gave Abbott a 6-1 lead, but he walked number nine hitter Madrigal to open the third and it led to three runs.

Hoerner doubled, sending Madrigal to third. Two straight sacrifice flies scored Madrigal and Hoerner and Bellinger doubled into the center field vines for another run, cutting the Red lead to 6-4.

Both Stroman and Abbott were done after three innings. Stroman gave up six runs, six hits and walked two. Abbott gave up four runs, five hits and walked three.

And the Reds needed that bullpen help because three Cubs relief pitchers held the Reds to no runs and two hits over the final six innings.

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