The Chicago Cubs struggled against a rookie right-hander and the team officially crosses the halfway mark in the 2017 season one game under .500.
All of the Cincinnati Reds’ runs came in two frames – both of which began with leadoff walks – and the Chicago Cubs surrendered an early lead, dropping a second-straight game at Great American Ballpark.
Chicago (40-41) looked puzzled by rookie right-hander Jackson Stephens, who almost single-handedly took down the reigning champs. In his big-league debut, the 23-year-old allowed just three runs on six hits, striking out eight Cubs hitters.
At the dish, he provided what proved to be the game-winning hit, as well. In the bottom of the fourth, Cincinnati scored four times. The first tally came on a bases-loaded walk to Tucker Barnhart. Then, Stephens delivered the fatal blow with a single up the middle to make it a 4-3 Cincinnati lead.
That knock chased Eddie Butler from the game. The right-hander turned in his second-shortest start of his Cubs career, lasting just 3 2/3 innings and allowed four earned on five hits and three walks. He managed just a pair of strikeouts in the losing effort.
Offensive woes continue
At this point, it’s hardly shocking the when the Cubs waste scoring opportunities. And that’s disappointing.
As a team, Chicago went just 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
Willson Contreras, though, put together a strong afternoon at the dish. The Cubs catcher went 2-for-4 with a double and a 440-plus foot blast in the third.
Earlier in that frame, outfielder Jon Jay drove a ball into the right-field seats for his first home run as a Cub.
Chicago (40-41) concludes the weekend series against Cincinnati (34-45) on Sunday at 12:10 p.m. CT.