A Cubs offense that was as scorching as the temperatures during the recent Chicago heat wave was greeted by a cool wind blowing briskly over the center-field scoreboard Friday afternoon.
Gone with the heat — the game-time temperature was 70 degrees — was the Cubs’ six-game winning streak as the Reds came out on top 3-2 before a crowd of 41,434.
The Cubs, who had scored at least five runs in each of their previous eight games, couldn’t overcome a solid outing from starter Tyler Mahle, the Reds’ bullpen and the swift breeze. Both teams had balls that would have reached the seats had an 18 mph wind not been howling in from the north. Instead, they ended up nestled in outfielders’ gloves.
“The conditions were definitely in favor of the pitchers,” said Cubs starter Mike Montgomery, who went five innings and allowed three runs and six hits with two walks and two strikeouts. “[On] both sides there were balls that probably would have been homers on a different day, but that’s kind of how Wrigley plays. We had a good run [with the] six-game win streak, we lose one and we just move on.”
The Reds got to Montgomery with two runs in the fourth, when Adam Duvall singled to score one and another crossed the plate when Scott Schebler grounded into a double play. The Reds tacked on another on Scooter Gennett’s sacrifice fly in the fifth.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Cubs plated one when Albert Almora Jr. grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored Willson Contreras.
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The Reds threatened in the sixth, but Jason Heyward made a spectacular diving catch in right-center — his second sparkling defensive play of the day — to keep the score close.
The Cubs pulled to within a run on a sacrifice fly by Ben Zobrist, who drove the ball deep to center, but the wind kept it in the park. Raisel Iglesias closed out the game for the Reds to hand the Cubs their first loss at Wrigley Field since June 19.
While Cubs bats were mostly muted, manager Joe Maddon has been pleased with his hitters’ approach during the team’s hot stretch, especially with balls hit to the opposite field. Both Cubs runs Friday came after batters opened the rallies with opposite-field hits, one by Contreras and the other by Javy Baez.
“Nobody is up there just trying to put the ball in the seats on every pitch,” Maddon said. “I think we’re starting to understand that pitchers throw home runs more than you hit them. Meaning that if you go up there with the home run in your mind every swing, I promise you the pitcher is not going to throw it where you can do that with every swing.”
Cubs president Theo Epstein also was appreciative of Cubs hitters’ mindset.
“Ball in play, high batting average [and]getting guys on base never goes out of style,” Epstein said. “To see some of these games where we score a ton of runs without homers are really gratifying because we know the home runs are coming. We have guys with a lot of power who are going to hit their bombs, so we just don’t want to be completely reliant on it, and we’re not. We have a few different ways to score runs now, which is really nice.”