By Hal McCoy
It is time for the Cincinnati Reds to put the Milwaukee Brewers in the rear-view mirror and focus their attention on the onrushing Chicago Cubs.
While the slumping Brewers lost again to the Washington Nationals, the Cubs once again flexed their muscles against the Reds Wednesday night in Wrigley Field.
The Reds led 3-0 and 5-2, then the Cubs assaulted the Cincinnati bullpen, scoring 14 runs with relief pitchers on the mound.
The result was a debilitating 16-6 defeat. Not only did the relief pitching crumble, the defense imploded with four errors, three by third baseman Nick Senzel.
While the Reds maintained their half-game lead over the Brewers, the Cubs are only three games behind after their 12th win in 15 games.
The Cubs obliterated the Reds, 20-9, Tuesday, but the Reds were never in it, just one of those games. And it was the first time a Cubs team scored 16 or more runs in back-to-back games since 1894.
But Wednesday loss was as disheartening to the Reds as any game this season.
The Cubs started left-hander Drew Smyly, who had a fast start this season but slumped in July and was relegated to the bulllpen.
He was making his first start in more than two weeks and the Reds took quick advantage.
Spencer Steer hit a two-out, two-strike home run in the first for a 2-0 Reds lead.
And every time Joey Votto seems lost at the plate, he emerges with a vengeance. He was 1 for 13 for his career against Smyly, but he cranked two home runs against him.
The first came in the second for the 3-0 lead.
The Cubs cut it to 3-2 in the third when Reds starter Brandon Williamson gave up a two-out, two-run home run to Christopher Morel.
Votto struck again in the fourth, a two-run home run, giving him 11 in the 34 games he has played. And that gave the Reds a 5-2 lead.
Williamson stilll had the 5-2 lead in the fifth. But he walked Jeimer Candelario and gave up a one-out single to Nico Hoerner.
Manager David Bell made what might be his most fatal decision of the season when he removed Williamson.
The Cubs scored one in the fourth and then came a deluge of Chiago runs.
They batted around in the sixth and in the seventh, scoring five in the sixth and four in the seventh.
For the second straight night Reds catcher Luke Maile mopped up on the mound and he gave up a pair of home runs to Ian Happ, his second of the game, and Seiya Suzuki.
After hitting seven home runs Tuesday, the Cubs hit five Wednesday.
Every Reds relief pitcher who appeared had his earned run average fluffed up.
Buck Farmer gave up two runs, two hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning. Lucas Sims gave up three runs, three hits and a walk. Alex Young gave up four runs (two earned), four hits and two walks. And Maile gave up two runs and three hits (two homers).
For the Cubs it was hit, hit, hit and hit some more.
For the second straight game, Jeimer Candelario had four hits while playing his second game for the Cubs after he was traded by the Washington Nationals. And he scored four runs.
Morel, Happ and Suzuki contributed two each to Chicago’s 16-hit attack. And the home runs were hit by Happ (2), Morel, Dansby Swanson (his fourth in the first three games of the series) and Suzuki.