Jake Arrieta, defense shaky as Cubs drop series finale to Reds
“Didn’t play our cleanest defense behind him,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “But a lot of these guys are out of position.”
When it’s Memorial Day weekend and the sun is shining, few things can spoil an afternoon at Wrigley Field. The Cubs’ offense getting stymied and right-hander Jake Arrieta and the defense allowing five runs in the first four innings can about do it, though.
Only two of those runs were earned, thanks to errors in the first and fourth, but Arrieta looked wobbly from the get-go as the Cubs dropped the final game of the series against the Reds 5-1 on Sunday.
‘‘Didn’t play our cleanest defense behind him,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘But a lot of these guys are out of position.’’
Kris Bryant, playing first base for the fifth day in a row, bobbled a grounder that helped load the bases and set up two of the Reds’ three runs in the first. In the fourth, third baseman Patrick Wisdom’s throwing error with two outs extended the inning long enough for the Reds to score their fifth run.
Arrieta departed with two outs in the fourth, having allowed six hits and four walks. His command was off all afternoon, and the Reds took advantage by drawing walks and stringing hits together.
‘‘I didn’t have a good feel for really anything,’’ Arrieta said. ‘‘Didn’t command the ball great. Just battled the whole day. Came out flat and didn’t do what I needed to do.’’
Reds starter Tyler Mahle, meanwhile, had faced the minimum number of batters until the fifth, when Ian Happ (walk) and Willson Contreras (single) gave the Cubs their first two baserunners. But Rafael Ortega, Wisdom and Eric Sogard each struck out.
Otherwise, the offense never got much going, other than a teaser rally late in the game. Pinch hitter P.J. Higgins drew a two-out walk in the eighth, then scored the Cubs’ only run when Joc Pederson and Bryant followed with singles.
‘‘Our guys have been fighting,’’ Ross said. ‘‘They’ve done a nice job. Great performances up until today. Just kind of didn’t go our way. Never got things going. They did a good job. Their starter did a nice job keeping us off-balance, making pitches when he had to.’’
The Cubs’ bullpen, however, continued its dominance. After Arrieta left the game, the Reds mustered only one hit and no runs. As a group, the Cubs’ relievers have yielded only 17 earned runs all month, the fewest in the majors.
‘‘I think the bullpen’s done a phenomenal job; that’s nothing new,’’ Ross said. ‘‘That would have been a real easy one to let get away from us with the score how it was early on.’’
The loss ended the Cubs’ winning streak at six games, but they have won five series in a row dating to May 14-16 against the Tigers. Their two-game sweep at the hands of the Indians this month is the only series the Cubs lost in May.
Hobbled by injury or not, the Cubs are confident they can keep winning with the Padres coming in for three games and a tough schedule in June ahead.
‘‘We’ve been banged up, and we’ve been able to account for that and had some guys step up and perform really well in big situations, and it’s just something we’re going to have to continue to do,’’ Arrieta said.
‘‘We’ve consistently shown the ability to pick up the slack with guys being called up and filing in in big situations. I think we’re going to do just fine. We’ve shown the ability to do that this past month or so, and hopefully we can keep that going.’’