Matt Garza‘s appearance on Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati was far from his stellar 2013 debut in Pittsburgh. Despite six strikeouts through three innings, Garza had to work around one hit and two walks before the Reds finally got to him in the bottom of the fourth.
Jay Bruce got the scoring started with a one out solo homer. A hit batter and a walk was followed by a RBI single by Ryan Hanigan before the big blow came in the form of a two RBI double by Zack Cozart. Just like that it was 4-0 Reds and Garza was replaced prior to the bottom of the fifth. The Cubs righty’s 92 pitch count played just as much a part in the decision as the four run deficit, if not more.
With that and the six game skid, many Cubs fans that had tuned in probably took their attention away to attend to more entertaining or relaxing activities for the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Those that stuck around were soon to be in for a nice surprise.
After all of the heat the bullpen has taken as an unit so far this season, there was a bit of role reversal on Sunday. The relief corp picked up the rare early exit of Cubs starter and combined to keep the home team to just one hit the rest of the way. That fact sounds more impressive when you consider that it came in the fifth during Rafael Dolis‘ lone inning of work. Even Carlos Marmol tossed a scoreless frame despite one walk, and lefty James Russell continued his stellar season with a perfect inning to bring his ERA down to 0.95.
Mean while the Cubs offense finally came to life against Reds starter Johnny Cueto in the seventh. The visitors collected back to back singles after one out thanks to their corner outfielders Alfonso Soriano and Nate Schierholtz. Then with two outs Luis Valbuena hit a single into center field to get the Cubs on the board.
The two out magic turned out to be a late inning theme for the Cubs. After two fairly quick outs to start the eighth, Starlin Castro collected a single. Anthony Rizzo then doubled just down the right field line to make it 4-2. Soriano then launched a 2-1 pitch deep into left center to tie up the ball game.
Kyuji Fujikawa took care of the bottom of of the eighth with three ground ball outs, but the Cubs wasted a lead off Darwin Barney double in the ninth to remind everyone of the RISP woes again. The Japanese reliever then got himself into a little trouble with a one out hit batter and a two out walk. With the way things have been going for the Cubs, the stage seemed primed for another disappointing North Sider loss. But manager Dale Sveum chose to bring in closer Kevin Gregg to get out number 27 and the veteran right hander obliged by getting Brandon Phillips to fly out.
In the top of the tenth, the Cubs quickly produced two outs before Scott Hairston, who had come in as part of the double switch with Kevin Gregg, earned a walk. Welington Castillo then hit a clutch double to plate the go ahead run, the first lead for the visitors all day.
Gregg did not let a walk and a catcher’s interference call rattle him, and the veteran reliever closed out the game for the first Cubs win in a week. Gregg is now 1-0 and the Cubs snapped their six game skid in late inning comeback fashion. After watching early leads of their own dissolve in the first two games of the weekend series, the Cubs gave the Reds a taste of what it was like to be on the losing end.