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Tempers flare as ‘searching’ Cubs drop third game in row to last-place Reds

Joe Maddon chats with umpire Greg Gibson after bench coach Brandon Hyde was ejected in Saturday's fourth inning.

CINCINNATI — It took barely three innings into a third consecutive loss to the Reds for the Cubs’ anger to spill over.

With the last-place Reds already eight runs into an 11-2 rout Saturday, catcher Willson Contreras stepped away from plate, upset at something umpire Greg Gibson said to him, and looked over at his dugout.

A few seconds later, bench coach Brandon Hyde took up Contreras’ cause and was ejected.

“It all happened because I asked for time out and apparently I didn’t thank him,” said Contreras, who insists he didn’t argue a single ball-strike call, or anything else. “He said something to me I didn’t really like, and it got to the point where I just looked over to the bench to try to get a little backup, just because I didn’t want to get thrown out myself and cost the team.

“I’m from Venezuela, and I have morals, and I have values. And I thanked him for calling a good game [after the game], and that’s what I’m hoping he learns about me after this game. . . . He knows what he said to me. It’s just not something that I’ll repeat.”

Gibson and the other umpires had left the park by the time Contreras was done talking.

Hyde? He got off easy. He didn’t have to watch the rest of the game.

The Cubs have scored just seven runs in three games in Cincinnati after winning an emotional series at home against the playoff-rival Dodgers.

And while the Reds have improved dramatically under ex-Cubs manager Jim Riggleman since the last time the Cubs saw them — winning nine of their last 11 — the Cubs also have their problems that have been exposed so far in this series.

“They definitely played much better,” manager Joe Maddon said. “They deserved to win all three. We definitely have to do a better job. Our pitching was in disarray today, and they took advantage.”

The Cubs were forced to start rookie Luke Farrell because of a need created by a doubleheader earlier in the week. So it’s hard to blame the pitching for what the Reds did on this day, except maybe for the five consecutive batters who reached once veteran Brian Duensing took over with two out in the third.

That included Anthony DeSclafani’s grand slam — the Reds’ first by a pitcher since 1959 (also against the Cubs).

“Offensively, we’re just falling short, and we’ve just got to keep grinding,” said slumping three-time All-Star Anthony Rizzo, who is just 9-for-51 with two extra-base hits in his last 15 games.

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What’s the cause for the feast-or-famine hitting that has resulted in three runs or fewer in exactly half their games — and an average of 7.9 runs in the other half?

“I wish I knew the answer to that,” Rizzo said. “The work is good. The preparation is good. Hopefully, we can lock in as a unit and stay locked in for a long time.

“We’re searching. We’re obviously hitting and running and doing a lot of things [with inconsistent results]. But we’re very talented, so we know it’s just a matter of time.”

Maddon focused on the big picture.

“We’ve been there before,” he said, recalling getting swept in Philadelphia late in 2015 and last year’s 0-6 road trip west. They ended both of those seasons in the NLCS. “It’s under the category of baseball. But while you’re saying that, don’t denigrate Cincinnati.”

Rizzo called Reds hitters Joey Votto, Scooter Gennett and Eugenio Suarez “three of the best in the business.”

“Obviously, the record doesn’t show it, but they’re a good team,” Rizzo said. “They’ve taken it to us, and they’ve beat us. We can hang our heads tomorrow, or we can come out and play with some fire.”