It was the kind of day at Wrigley Field that makes All-Star hitters, but it didn’t help the Cubs’ team of All-Stars beat the lowly Reds on Tuesday.
Despite four home runs – two by All-Star shortstop Addison Russell – the Cubs and ump-challenged starter John Lackey lost for the 11th time in 16 games, this one a 9-5 decision to the last-place Reds.
The Cubs’ second loss in 12 meetings against the Reds this season put the Giants in position to overtake them for the best record in the majors, pending the Giants late game against the Rockies. The Cubs have owned the top record since April.
Lackey gave up an uncharacteristic five walks in the game, including three straight in a two-run first inning, and was visibly upset at times with home-plate ump Jerry Meals.
Meals ejected manager Joe Maddon in the second after a questionable strike call with David Ross batting.
“It was just pretty much the culmination of other calls that have gone against us lately,” Maddon said. “It was egregious.
“I haven’t had a day off in a while, so I thought it was a good time for one,” he added.
The Cubs already trailed 4-0 at that point, with Billy Hamilton having reached twice, stolen two bases in two innings – and having scored from second on a passed ball in the first when Lackey was late covering the plate after catcher Ross was late getting to the ball.
And Zack Cozart had a two-run homer off Lackey in the second.
“I think Joe got asked to leave for a reason,” Lackey (7-5) said. “Guys miss calls. I miss pitches. Nobody’s perfect out there. But the problem you run into is when guys are just adamant and won’t even admit when they could have missed it.”
Lackey got through six innings as the Cubs cut an early 5-0 deficit to a run with a four-run third. But that was as close as it got, with Jay Bruce adding a two-run homer off Pedro Strop in the ninth to seal it.
“Honestly, besides the first inning with some crazy stuff, I felt like I threw the ball pretty good today,” Lackey said. “It wasn’t an ideal day to pitch for sure. It was one of those days. I really thought once we scored the four runs we were going to have a chance to come back in that game.”
They might have if they hadn’t gone 0-for-7 with men in scoring position, including three straight outs Javy Baez, Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant after putting the first two men on base in the sixth.