The Chicago Cubs offense has been as unpredictable as the spring temperatures the last few weeks, switching on and off with little notice.
They continued the trend Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, getting no-hit until the eighth inning of a 9-0 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.
Hunter Greene pitched six no-hit innings for the Reds and struck out 11 of the 20 batters he faced, and the Cubs continued to look lifeless before Christopher Morel’s leadoff single off reliever Eduardo Salazar in the eighth spoiled the combined no-hit bid.
“If he doesn’t make too many mistakes, he’s going to be tough,” Cubs designated hitter Trey Mancini said of Greene. “He’s got electric stuff and he showed it today. Got to tip your cap. Some days you get beat and beat pretty badly, and that’s what happened.”
It could’ve been worse. The Reds knocked out 19 hits — including eight doubles — against Justin Steele and three relievers on a chilly afternoon with the wind blowing in from left field. They stranded 12 runners.
With the Cubs falling 10-1 to the New York Mets on Thursday, they’ve been outscored 19-1 over the last two games, negating any momentum from back-to-back wins over the Mets.
Greene, the hardest-throwing starter in the game — his average fastball velocity of 98.9 mph led all pitchers with 100 or more innings last year — had been winless since beating the Cubs on Oct. 3 in his last start of the 2022 season. He combined with reliever Art Warren for eight no-hit innings as a rookie against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a game the Reds wound up losing 1-0, keeping it from becoming an official no-hitter.
The Cubs didn’t come close to solving Greene, who struck out 10 of 13 batters from the second through the fifth. It was as uneventful a no-hit bid as one could imagine, with no sparkling defensive plays and little buzz from the crowd of 31,946, many of whom seemed clueless about the no-hitter as it unfolded.
The Cubs didn’t even hit a ball to the outfield until the sixth, when Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson flied out to left. Reds manager David Bell lifted Greene after 110 pitches, even though Greene looked like he could continue dominating.
Salazar induced three ground-ball outs in the seventh to keep the no-hit bid intact before Morel stroked a single to center to end the suspense. The Cubs wound up with two hits while being shut out for the first time this season.
Cubs manager David Ross said he was OK with the overall at-bats and didn’t take any solace in avoiding a no-hitter.
“You don’t want to get no-hit,” he said. “But an ‘L’ is an ‘L.’ It doesn’t feel good.”
And the L’s have been piling up for the Cubs, who have no timeline for the return of injured center fielder Cody Bellinger.
Ross sat Seiya Suzuki on Friday to give the hot-hitting right fielder a day off, using Morel in right and Mancini at DH. Morel had a tough time dealing with the sun and the lack of foul territory down the line, though he wasn’t charged with an error and contributed to a double play with a strong throw to the plate in the sixth.
It didn’t matter. The Cubs trailed three batters into the game on Spencer Steer’s RBI double and never seemed capable of making it close.
But at least they didn’t make history. The Cubs have been no-hit only seven times in franchise history and only once since Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965. That was on July 25, 2015, when Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels no-hit the Cubs in a 5-0 win at Wrigley Field. Hamels threw 129 pitches, a total few managers would let their starters reach in the current era, even with a no-hitter in the balance.
Steele (6-2) didn’t have much going for him in his second subpar outing in three starts. When pitching coach Tommy Hottovy strolled out to the mound four batters into Steele’s start, it was an early omen it wouldn’t be the left-hander’s day.
Steele has been the Cubs’ most consistent starter through the first two months, allowing two or fewer earned runs in eight of 11 starts and compiling a 2.77 ERA. But the Reds knocked him out in the fourth en route to dealing the Cubs their second straight lopsided loss. Steele allowed five earned runs on 10 hits in 3⅔ innings.
“I’m very in the moment,” he said. “It’s already in the past. Any outing, whether it’s good or bad, you have to take something from it, learn from it and continue to get better each outing.”
The Reds might be in rebuilding mode and a year or so from contending, but they’ve outplayed the rest of the National League Central over the last five weeks, going 15-14 since April 24. Believe it or not, that’s the best record in the division in that stretch, showing the NL Central’s weakness.
The Cubs, meanwhile, have gone 10-21 since their 12-7 start and are seeking consistency before the 2023 season slips away. Jameson Taillon, who has struggled since signing with the Cubs in December, gets the start Saturday night in hopes of turning his season around.
A little support from the Cubs bats would be beneficial. Mancini said the ups and downs of the offense can’t be attributed to anything in particular.
In essence, he said, it’s just baseball.
“It’s going to happen so much over the course of a long season,” Mancini said. “Today was one of those days that was unfortunately not in our favor. All you can do is wash it, come back (Saturday) evening and hope to have a game like we did the first couple games in the New York series.”
Source: Berkshire mont
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