There’s no place like home for the Reds, especially after they were swept in their first three road games of the season, capped off by an 8-1 throttling at the hands of the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Thursday.
Cincinnati (5-4) opened the season 5-1 at home, but saw its chance to gain momentum in the NL Central crushed by the current leaders. The Cubs (8-1) continued to stay hot in the early going as Jason Hammel (1-0) tossed six innings of shutout baseball while also adding an RBI double to help his own cause. Raisel Iglesias (1-1) struggled in his third start of the season, lasting just five innings with three runs allowed on six hits.
While the Reds looked to be in control at the beginning of the series with Brandon Finnegan hurling a no-hitter through nearly seven innings. However, after that point with the Reds leading 3-0, the Cubs went on to outscore Cincinnati 22-3 for the rest of the series. Alfredo Simon surrendered five of those runs in the first inning of Wednesday’s game, and left after recording just two outs.
That set the tone for Thursday’s contest with the Reds needing Iglesias to try and go deep into the ballgame, but Chicago had punished starting pitchers in their first eight contests, with many of their opponents starters not making it through five innings. The Reds had several chances early to get to Hammel, but were unable to collect a timely hit. Meanwhile the Cubs got a homer from Kris Bryant in the second and then a pair of runs in the fifth with Hammel doubling home a run and then scoring on a sacrifice fly.
Blake Wood and Caleb Cotham were able to keep Chicago off the board in the sixth and seventh, but Cincinnati was unable to cross the plate against former Red Travis Wood and Pedro Strop. J.J. Hoover came on for his first appearance since Saturday, and the rust was apparent for the Reds closer. He loaded the bases on two walks and a single with one out and then surrendered an RBI single, walked in a run, and finally a two-run single before leaving the game. In his four games this season, Hoover is 0-1 with just one strikeout and six runs allowed for a 16.88 ERA.
The Reds luck continued to be lousy as Jumbo Diaz came on in relief and got Jason Heyward to line out to Jay Bruce, who made a fine diving catch to save a run. Unfortunately for Bruce it went from good to bad quickly as he attempted to pick off Dexter Fowler at first base, but there was no one covering the bag, and Bruce’s throw errantly sailed through the air to allow another run to score.
Cincinnati did finally get on the board in the ninth when Bruce singled, Adam Duvall doubled, and then Tucker Barnhart grounded out to make it 8-1. Justin Grimm squashed the Reds rally attempt by striking out pinch-hitter Scott Schebler to end the game.
The road woes in Chicago might only be the beginning as the Reds now travel to St. Louis for a three-game set with the red-hot Cardinals (5-4). The Redbirds were swept by the Pirates to begin the season, but took out their aggression on the Braves and Brewers to win five of their last six games. One Reds player that will be excited for the chance to play in St. Louis is Tim Melville (0-0, 2.25 ERA) who will make his second career start at Busch Stadium, which is just 40 minutes east of where he grew up. He allowed just a solo homer to the Pirates in four innings of work to earn a no decision. He’ll draw a tough task in Carlos Martinez (1-0, 3.00 ERA) who limited the Braves to two runs in six innings in his first start of the season.
Friday also marks Jackie Robinson Day in which every player will don the number 42 in honor of the Hall of Fame second baseman who broke the color barrier on April 15, 1947. First pitch is set for 8:15 p.m.