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Cubs’ lineup feasts or fasts as Bryzzo does

Bryant sat out a second straight game Sunday because of a sore shoulder.

CINCINNATI — Maybe you can’t blame Kris Bryant’s sore shoulder for what has ailed the Cubs’ lineup this season.

But maybe you can blame at least part of the problem on Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, the two All-Star sluggers the lineup is built around.

‘‘Absolutely,’’ said Bryant, who sat out a second consecutive game Sunday against the Reds because of the day-to-day issue with the shoulder.

The ‘‘Bryzzo’’ heart of the Cubs’ order rarely has produced at a high level as a tandem this season for even a week at a time, contributing to a feast-and-famine season of production so far.

‘‘It’s pretty large,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘Those are two guys that we rely on a lot.’’

As if to prove the point, Rizzo delivered a two-run home run to cap a five-run fifth inning Sunday. It was Rizzo’s first homer in nearly two weeks and his 12th of the season.

It still wasn’t enough on a day reliever Pedro Strop melted down in the seventh. The Reds beat the Cubs 8-6 to finish a four-game sweep at Great American Ball Park.

The six runs were an exception to the rule for the Cubs’ lineup the last two weeks. In fact, the Cubs scored more runs in the fifth than they had in any of their previous seven games. And now they head to Los Angeles for four games to face a pitching staff that held them to nine runs in three games last week at Wrigley Field.

‘‘I remember seeing on TV that they put up our offensive numbers, and in a bunch of categories we were in first, and I had no clue,’’ said Bryant, who expects to return to the lineup in a day or two. ‘‘It was like, ‘That was a nice surprise.’ ’’

Until Sunday, the Cubs had scored more than three runs in only four of their previous 15 games. In fact, they had scored three runs or fewer in exactly half of their first 74 games. They had averaged 7.9 runs in the other half.

‘‘It’s tough being streaky like that,’’ Bryant said. ‘‘And I hate that as an individual, being a streaky baseball player. But sometimes that’s just how it goes.’’

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Bryant, Rizzo and Maddon all say they expect the numbers to even out and finish at high-performance levels. For now, however, the lineup seems to go as Bryzzo goes.

Even after the homer against the Reds, Rizzo is 10-for-55 (.182) with three extra-base hits in his last 16 games. Bryant is 9-for-48 (.188) with four extra-base hits in his last 12 games.

‘‘Obviously, we hit right in the thick of the order,’’ Rizzo said. ‘‘You want to be producing the whole time. But it’s a long season. We can’t ride the roller coaster as hard as some people do. We’ve got to keep the big picture in mind.’’

<em>Rizzo hits his first homer in almost two weeks Sunday. Neither he nor Bryant ranks among the Cubs’ top two in homers (Schwarber, Baez).</em>
Rizzo hits his first homer in almost two weeks Sunday. Neither he nor Bryant ranks among the Cubs’ top two in homers (Schwarber, Baez).

Bryant said the emergence of Javy Baez, Albert Almora Jr. and Kyle Schwarber has taken off some of the Bryzzo-or-bust pressure, but he also knows what it would mean if they join the party together at some point.

‘‘We have a great record this year, and me and him haven’t really been where we want to be, so that’s a great thing,’’ Bryant said. ‘‘If we can turn it on and get hot at the same time, then we’ll be a really scary team.’’

The next step for Bryant is returning from the shoulder soreness that has bothered him for much of the last week.

‘‘I think it’s just the result of swinging too much and just getting extra work in,’’ said Bryant, who dealt with similar episodes in college and the minors but never before in the big leagues. ‘‘It’s nothing that I’m seriously concerned about.’’

If the issue lingers into Tuesday, the Cubs could decide to use the disabled list and take advantage of the full three-day maximum for backdating a move.

‘‘The 10-day DL permits you to do things you wouldn’t do otherwise, but I’m not thinking that yet,’’ Maddon said.