Cubs do just enough wrong to extend losing streak to nine

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Cincinnati Reds' Jonathan India, top, forces out the Cubs' Jake Marisnick, bottom, at second base as he turns a double play during the fourth inning of a baseball game in Cincinnati, Sunday, July 4, 2021.

    Cincinnati Reds' Jonathan India, top, forces out the Cubs' Jake Marisnick, bottom, at second base as he turns a double play during the fourth inning of a baseball game in Cincinnati, Sunday, July 4, 2021. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 7/5/2021 8:00 AM

A couple things changed for the Cubs on Sunday.

Nico Hoerner returned to the lineup after missing 36 games with a hamstring strain, going 0-for-4 at the plate.

 

The Cubs collected 10 hits, ending their streak of 20 consecutive games with 8 or fewer hits, a feat matched just two other times in MLB since 1920.

Otherwise, though, this was a carbon copy of the first two games in Cincinnati. The Cubs grabbed an early lead, eventually gave it up, couldn't score against the Reds' suspect bullpen and wasted another quality start.

Their losing streak reached nine in a row with a 3-2 loss at Great American Ballpark. The Cubs dropped all three games in this series by 1 run.

The only good news was they didn't lose ground in the standings, since the Brewers' 11-game win streak finally ended in Pittsburgh. The Cubs will return home after their longest road trip of the season to face Philadelphia on Monday night.

"I don't see any lack of concentration or focus," Cubs manager David Ross said. "I see a willingness to fight through it. It just seems like an inning or so just doesn't go our way."

Added starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks, "It's almost like we have to play a perfect game, it feels like, to get a win right now. It's such a long season, you're going to have ups and downs. This is obviously a big down for us."

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The Cubs offense started well, with three consecutive first-inning singles by Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javy Baez, driving in the game's first run. But Patrick Wisdom followed with a sharp grounder to third, resulting in an inning-ending double play to keep it at just 1 run.

Rizzo, Baez, Jake Marisnick and Willson Contreras had 2 hits each. But it was the same old story, 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position, while hitting into 3 double plays.

"It's been a grind for us, but I don't think you're going to see a lot of guys hanging their heads," said Marisnick, whose triple led to the Cubs' second run. "It stinks after the game, we're getting beat up a little bit, but we're bringing a lot of energy to the games every day when we come in."

Hendricks pitched 6 innings and left with a 2-1 lead. Dan Winkler tried to fill the Ryan Tepera role in the seventh inning, but it didn't work out. He faced five batters and the results were 2 singles and 2 hit batsman, forcing in the tying run.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Andrew Chafin came in and got a ground ball, but the Cubs couldn't turn the double play as the go-ahead run scored. Actually, Baez chose not to throw to first to try to double up Jesse Winker. It would have been a long shot with Chafin rushing over to cover first.

The Cubs' inability to score a single run in the entire series off the Reds' bullpen was their biggest downfall. In the ninth, lefty Amir Garrett came in with one out and walked Ian Happ on four pitches, then gave up a single to pinch-hitter Eric Sogard. But the game ended one batter later when Contreras hit into a double play.

"We've played some tight games," Ross said. "I don't feel like we're playing bad baseball, just not the best execution right at the end. We continue to grind. The effort, the baserunning, the focus -- all that stuff is there.

"When things are going bad. It just seems like you've got to have that big hit, come up with the big moment that kind of gets you through, gets you over the hump, gives you a little bit of breathing room."

Having Hoerner back should help in the long run. And the Cubs should get some bullpen help in the next couple of days with the expected return of lefthander Justin Steele from a hamstring strain.

Sergio Alcantara was sent to Iowa to make room for Hoerner on the roster.

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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