Starting pitcher Travis Wood had faced the Cincinnati Reds six previous times and had been held winless. Facing the team that made him a second round draft pick in 2005 for the seventh time Monday night in Great American Ballpark, Wood finally broke through with a performance that showed why he was a National League All-Star this season.
The left-hander threw 100 pitches through seven innings, giving up six hits and striking out seven while improving his record to 9-11 on the year. Opposing pitcher Bronson Arroyo also went seven innings, but gave up two costly solo home runs. He was able to get six strikeouts and also did not give up a walk.
It seemed like the game would go in the Reds favor early after some errors on the base paths ended the Cubs’ first scoring chance in the top of the first. Third basemen Luis Valbuena hit a double down the baseline that was initially ruled an error on Reds first basemen Joey Votto as it hit off his glove. Chicago first basemen Anthony Rizzo came up, but hit a fly ball to shallow centerfield for the second out.
Catcher Dioner Navarro came up and hit a single to right-field. Valbuena was looking at outfielder Jay Bruce instead of third-base coach David Bell, who was giving him the green light to go home. Navarro, expecting a play at the plate, was headed towards second base. Valbuena pulled up at third and Navarro was caught in a run-down to end the early threat.
The Reds certainly had their chances to keep their hot streak going, having won six of their past seven games against the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals and NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. Second basemen Brandon Phillips had the first hit off of Wood on the day, hitting a one-out single to right-field in the bottom of the first. Votto followed that up with a broken bat single past a diving Starlin Castro at shortstop.
Bruce came up to the plate with many people expecting big things. The left-hander had hit two home runs of the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw the day before, but Wood was able to strike him out. Todd Frazier grounded out to end the first frame.
Center-fielder Ryan Sweeney turned on a 76 mph breaking ball on the inside of the plate, about belt-high for his sixth home run on the year to put the Cubs on top 1-0. Valbuena would make up for his base running error by adding his own solo home run to put the Cubs up 2-0, a lead they would not lose for the rest of the game.
Arroyo didn’t give Chicago many chances. He didn’t allow a walk or back-to-back hits all night. Valbuena led the Cubs’ offense with two hits, but also had two strikeouts. Castro and Rizzo were held hitless, combining to go 0 for 8 with a strikeout. Right-fielder Nate Schierholtz went one for three with a double, a walk, and two strikeouts.
Closer Kevin Gregg was able to record his 31st save on the season. Things heated up a bit when he gave up a one-out double to Zack Cozart, but was able to get a line-out and ground-out to notch the win for Chicago.
Coming into the contest, the Reds had been 13-3 against the Cubbies this year and had been 48-18 against them over the past four seasons combined.
One thing to keep an eye on as this series continues tomorrow is the health of second basemen Brandon Phillips of the Reds. He has been listed as day-to-day with a left quad contusion. Chicago hit six ground balls at him that he had to field and he slowed down as the game went on. He is a big part of what the team does offensively, but knowing they need him for the stretch run could make for some tough decisions by Manager Dusty Baker during this series and the remainder of the season.