The Cubs were able to win the critical series against the Reds on Thursday night with a more traditional approach. Chicago relied on their bullpen to preserve a two-run victory on another hitters’ night at Wrigley Field, and they did it without hitting five or more homers for the first time in three games.
Elly De La Cruz put Cincinnati ahead immediately, hitting the first pitch of the game from Jameson Taillon for a solo home run to center. The North Siders responded against Luke Weaver with back-to-back doubles from Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ to tie the score in the bottom of the 1st.
Hoerner struck out swinging with two outs in the 3rd but was able to reach base when the ball got away from catcher Luke Maile. The Cubs proceeded to stage a three-run rally with Cody Bellinger hitting an RBI single and consecutive bases-loaded walks being drawn by Christopher Morel and Jeimer Candelario.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 4, 2023
Taillon allowed a run on a Maile double play in the top of the 4th inning but left with his team ahead 4-2 in the 6th. Both teams got much better performances from their relievers on Thursday and the score remained there through seven.
Spencer Steer got a fly ball into the jet stream against Julian Merryweather in the top of the 8th for a solo homer to right-center that cut the lead to just 4-3. The Cubs then got a huge insurance tally in the bottom of the frame when Dansby Swanson doubled and came home on a Yan Gomes sacrifice fly.
The dropped third strike really did swing the momentum of the game because the Cubs offense was doing very little before the 3rd inning rally and did very little after it.
Why the Cubs Won
The bullpen did an excellent job preserving a much narrower lead Thursday and then once again jumped on a key mistake by their opponent on the wild pitch.
Stats That Matter
- Taillon had to battle but he gave his team a chance to win and they did: 5 IP, 2 R, 7 H, 5 K, and 2 BB.
- Nice game for Happ with a double and two walks.
- Morel did an excellent job going from an 0-2 count to a walk and earning an RBI as his plate approach continues to improve.
- Mark Leiter Jr. had his nasty splitter working Thursday, striking out four of the five batters he faced.
The Cubs did exactly what they needed to do to get right back into the race. They were two runs away from getting a sweep of Cincinnati, but they will gladly take the series win. Chicago now sits 2.5 games out of first in the NL Central and are only 2 games out of the final Wild Card spot. They have multiple paths to reach the postseason and are playing the best they have all season. This is getting fun now.
The Cubs welcome the best team in baseball, the Atlanta Braves, for three games starting Friday at 1:20pm CT. Kyle Hendricks faces off against Max Fried, who is pitching for the first time in three months, and you can catch the action on MLB Network (out of market only) Marquee and 670 The Score.