January 30, 2023

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Cubs' bats can't keep pace after Happ's 2-run double

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Chicago falls to 0-22 when trailing after 5 frames; Ross gets ejected in 9th following HBP

CINCINNATI — Late-inning magic hasn’t been a specialty for the Cubs this season.

Chicago fell to 0-22 when trailing heading into the sixth inning after a 4-3 loss to the Reds on Wednesday night at Great American Ball Park.

For the second consecutive night, Chicago’s offense stormed out of the gate. Ian Happ slapped a double off the left-field wall, giving the Cubs a 2-0 lead in the first inning. The team is 16-11 on the season when scoring first, and it appeared Chicago, which took the first two in this four-game set, was primed for a big offensive showing.

Instead, Reds starter Luis Castillo settled in nicely after the shaky opening frame and shut down the Cubs’ lineup through the next four of his five-inning outing — logging six strikeouts to pick up his first win of the season.

Despite mounting a late-inning comeback — Nico Hoerner’s RBI single in the ninth made it a one-run game — manager David Ross was still pleased with the at-bats his lineup put together.

“I thought we had good at-bats all night,” Ross said. “They made some pitches … [the Reds’] bullpen did a really nice job. We had a lot of traffic early on. We scratched some [runs] across early and didn’t do much after that, but the at-bats in the ninth were really good.  [Our] guys continued to fight.”

As the game played into the eighth inning, with the Cubs trailing by two, tempers flared on both sides. Chicago reliever Rowan Wick walked Joey Votto on four pitches, and Wick was upset with a perceived bat flip by the Reds’ first baseman. The two exchanged words as Votto made his way to first base.

A half-inning later, with the Cubs trailing, 4-2, Reds reliever Hunter Strickland drilled third baseman Patrick Wisdom, bringing the potential tying run to the plate with just one out.

Ross immediately left the dugout to argue with home-plate umpire Dan Merzel, which prompted the skipper’s quick ejection.

“I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but it definitely may have appeared that way,” Wick said.

Following the game, Strickland denied any intent.

“That’s not ideal, obviously,” Strickland said. “Every win is pretty important to us right now. To go out there and just give guys free bases is never the intention by any means.”

For Ross, his frustration stemmed from no warnings issued following the hit-by-pitch.

“I don’t know whether it was [intentional] or not, but [the umpires] not getting together [is what irritated me],” Ross said. “Two guys wanting to get together and another guy not wanting them to get together was the frustrating part for me.”

Wick believed Votto’s bat flip to be excessive, given the situation.

“I understand he’s been in the league a long time, he can do whatever he wants when he walks … On my side, I was not happy at all with the pitches that I threw, so I let the emotions get the best of me,” Wick said. “I got a bit frustrated, but I feel like he kind of blew it out of the water more than he had to.”

Votto, on the other hand, didn’t believe the exchange to be anything outside of the competitive spirit of the game.

“It’s part of the game,” Votto said. “It can be one of the more enjoyable parts of the game, you know, competing, some talk. I really enjoy that part of the game. Sometimes, it can be overextended and it can be taken too far, but generally speaking, I enjoy that part as long as the other party is fine with taking it.”

Strickland also voiced his appreciation for Ross at that moment.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Rossy,” Strickland said. “He’s going out there and protecting his team and standing up for them. Nothing but respect there.”

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