CINCINNATI — Blame it on the Dodgers?
Blame it on Jose Quintana? Blame it on the rain?
Blame whatever you want, and take it for what it’s worth in June.
But after winning a tight, intense series against the playoff-rival Dodgers, the Cubs have made the last-place Reds look formidable the first two games of a four-game series.
This time it was a 6-3 loss Friday night after a rough fifth inning for starter Quintana that included a go-ahead home run by Eugenio Suarez. That came one night after the Cubs lost 6-2 on the strength of a six-run sixth inning by the Reds.
The Cubs allowed five runs in their previous series against the defending National League-champion Dodgers.
“We played great [then],” manager Joe Maddon said. “We haven’t played great here. We’ve played two of our least impressive games in about a month. It’s just not been us playing our typical game.”
After an 11-inning loss at Great American Ball Park on May 19, Maddon called that game “one of my least favorite games as Cubs manager … one of my worst sitting in that dugout.”
The Cubs fell to 3-4 against the Reds this year, all in Cincinnati.
“We haven’t played well here. We have not,” Maddon said. And normally this is a place we like to hit.”
Maddon and the Cubs say they don’t believe there’s been a letdown after the Dodger series. And this is still a team that has won seven of its previous eight series and has one of the top three records in the league.
But the Cubs will have to rally to win the next two games with their rotation in flux to avoid losing what suddenly looks like one of those so-called trap series. Rookie Luke Farrell starts Saturday and Tyler Chatwood is scheduled to pitch Sunday — unless he has to rush home to be with his wife for the birth of their first child.
“We’re just all out there trying to play our game,” said Kyle Schwarber, whose two-run homer in the fourth gave the Cubs a 3-1 lead.
“There might be something to that, where we just went out and played an emotional series,” he said. “But I think we’re just trying to do our thing. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out the last two games. But we’ve got two more still in the series so we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”
Quintana (6-6) had allowed two runs or less in four consecutive starts — and eight of 10 — before struggling through his worst start since May 26.
“I felt good today, with the exception of that one [changeup to Suarez],” he said through a translator. “I feel like I’ve had some good outings recently, and it’s just a matter of moving forward and looking ahead to the next start.”
Maddon seems less concerned with his starting pitching than he does with the overall hitting.
Despite Jason Heyward’s resurgence and good stretches from a few others, the two guys the lineup is built around have not been the monsters of the middle like in past seasons.
Anthony Rizzo is just 4-for-25 without an extra-base hit his last seven games. He went 0-4 and made two errors Friday.
And Kris Bryant’s power has slipped over the past seven weeks. He also has eight multiple-strikeout games in his last 17 games after having seven in his first 54.
“It’s pretty large,” Maddon said of the impact. “Those are two guys that we rely on a lot. Rizz has had a great last month or so [after a poor start]. KB really hasn’t unleashed himself to this point. But they will. That’s a big part of where the runs are coming from for us.”