Cubs pitcher Thompson starts fast but can't finish off Reds

Pitcher Keegan Thompson has been one of the brighter spots in a disappointing Cubs season.

But with just 15 major-league starts under his belt, he's still refining his plan on the mound.

Thompson and Cincinnati's Luis Castillo were locked in a pitchers' duel for five innings, but the Reds finally broke through in the sixth and went on to a 5-3 victory at Wrigley Field on Tuesday.

As he entered the sixth inning, Thompson was on a three-game tear. His combined stat line was 1 earned run, 9 hits and 23 strikeouts over 17 innings. Against the Reds, he was working quickly and commanding the fastball.

"It's been vintage him as of late, throwing the ball really well," Cubs manager David Ross said. "I think tempo is confidence. I think Keegan's coming right at you. That fast pace puts you on your heels."

Thompson's success changed quickly in the sixth. With one out and a runner on first, Thompson gave up back-to-back RBI doubles to the gaps by Brandon Drury and Donovan Solano.

The two doubles happened just after a long video review. On a tapper to the mound, Thompson made an aggressive attempt to force the runner at second. The umpire initially ruled the runner safe because David Bote came off the bag to catch a slightly errant throw, but the call was reversed after review.

In the seventh, Thompson left the mound after giving up a pair of singles. Rowan Wick then surrendered a two-out, 3-run homer to Jonathan India that made it 5-0.

"I got maybe a little tired there, but I've got to find a way to dig down and make those pitches at the end and get through that inning," Thompson said.

Early in the game, Thompson relied heavily on the four-seam fastball, then started to mix in some off-speed pitches. He's been experimenting with a slider and used it eight times on Tuesday, which is typical of his recent outings.

"We've thrown it a little more the last couple of outings, but I've got to throw it in the strike zone a little more," Thompson said. "I've been yanking it, just kind of bouncing it, but I got a couple of swings and misses on it tonight. I'll keep working.

"We were establishing the fastball early. We were going to it with two strikes and were getting swings and misses early in the e game. Then they started putting the ball in play and getting some hits with two strikes, so we went more off-speed and mixed it up a little."

Even while delivering a career-high 123 pitches, Castillo was throwing smoke. His fastball averaged 97.3 mph and peaked at 98.8, according to Statcast, and he finished with 11 strikeouts.

Rookie Christopher Morel, who has struck out 11 times in the past four games, got the Cubs on the board in the seventh with an RBI double. He hit a line drive into the right-center field gap and the ball landed between the two Cincinnati outfielders as neither one made an attempt to catch it. The Cubs added 2 more runs on a ground out and infield single.

Rafael Ortega doubled in the ninth, but the Cubs couldn't put together another scoring threat. Nico Hoerner kept up his hot pace at the plate with 3 hits. He's now 12 for his last 20 over the course of five games.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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