CHICAGO — In the top of the second inning on Thursday, Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks served a hanging curveball down the center to Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto.
Throughout Votto’s career, he has batted better against Hendricks than almost any other pitcher. Votto almost always crushes those errors for extra-base hits. But Votto’s barrel only hit the lower part of the baseball, and he hit a weak pop-fly into midfield.
It started one of the most frustrating innings of the entire Reds season.
On Thursday, the Cubs in fourth place defeated the Reds in last place, 15-7, at Wrigley Field to win the series. The Cubs took the lead with a five-run second inning.
“You always want to play as perfectly as possible,” said Reds manager David Bell. “It is important.”
It started when Votto hit the weak pop-fly into midfield. Votto prodded his bat on the ground toward the warning lane behind home plate and slowly came out of the batter’s box. The Cubs had four players together in the same place in the outfield. Somehow the fly ball fell to the ground. Votto tried to sprint to second base, but his frustration at leaving the batter’s box cost him the head.
Votto was tagged out second. From there, the inning spiraled downward. After Kyle Farmer singled, the Reds attempted a hit-and-run that ended in a double play with strikeout.
In the bottom of the second, the Cubs were awarded an infield single on a routine ball to first base due to an apparent miscommunication between Votto and starting pitcher Graham Ashcraft. After a walk, the Cubs loaded the bases.
“I went through a little moment there,” Ashcraft said. “I just didn’t get across when I had to start right away.”
During his last few starts, Ashcraft has made it a point to use his sinker more often, as he did earlier in the season. Ashcraft dropped a sinker to Cubs third baseman Patrick Wisdom, and Wisdom crushed a grand slam that gave Chicago a 6-0 lead. Votto hit a solo homer later in the game for the Reds against Hendricks. But it was too little too late in a game where the Reds saw the Cubs take an early lead.
“It was just inconsistency of the mechanics and the release point,” Ashcraft said. “I wasn’t able to pitch when I needed to and where we needed to… I got frustrated with myself and I just didn’t make the adjustment. when I needed to.”
Chicago took an early 1-0 lead as centerfielder Nick Senzel made an unnecessary throw to third base, which allowed a runner to advance from first to second.
“Senzel just couldn’t control the ball,” Bell said. “He would have had a play in third place. But you’re right. If he admits he didn’t get it out of his gauntlet fast enough, it could have kept him in first place.”
Ashcraft only threw 64% of his pitches for strikes, which was below his season average. He left the game with one out in the third inning after giving up seven hits and seven runs.
There is still a long season for the Reds, which fell to 26-49 on the season. As of Thursday, the Reds hadn’t been under .500 for 23 games since the end of the 2018 season. Cincinnati is currently at a pace of 57 wins. The Reds are also expected to be open to offers for some of their best players on the trade deadline, which would draw more talent from a team that is struggling.
Because of the poor start to the game for the Reds, Bell needed rightfielder Max Schrock to pitch the eighth inning. Schrock gave up five runs as the Cubs pulled away.
“It’s terrible to bring in a position player,” Bell said. “I hate it, I really do. That was exactly what I felt was best for our team. Just given our situation to give us the best chance of winning in the next few games.”
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Reds vs Cubs: Chicago wins series win over Cincinnatis last place