CINCINNATI — Starting pitching has been an area in which the Cubs have fallen short this season. And after their 15-7 loss Wednesday to the Brewers, they desperately needed innings in their series opener Friday against the Reds.
‘‘As a group, we have to go deeper in games,’’ president Jed Hoyer said before the game. ‘‘I feel like a broken record saying that for two months, but it takes a toll on the bullpen. It takes a toll on the roster moves we have to make. That part has been a real challenge.’’
Right-hander Alec Mills was up for the challenge and put together his best performance of the season in a 2-1 loss, the Cubs’ seventh in a row. He works to contact and makes hitters put the ball in play when he’s going right, but he had the strikeout working against the Reds, tying a career high with nine in 5‰ innings.
‘‘I thought he had a really, really nice night,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘Moved the ball around real well.’’
Mills didn’t allow many runners to get on base and had allowed only one hit going into the sixth. But after a walk and a hit got him into a two-out jam, Ross went to left-hander Adam Morgan to face Joey Votto. Votto responded with a double down the right-field line to drive in two runs and give the Reds a 2-1 lead.
Mills did all he could to give the Cubs a chance to win, allowing two runs and two hits and walking only one.
‘‘I finally had the changeup tonight,’’ Mills said. ‘‘Generated a couple of swings-and-misses. I think it was just that extra wrinkle, so that they had to respect a third pitch. I think I just located the fastball. . . . I think that’s something that I have to do to be successful.’’
Stewart up, Nance down
Before the game, the Cubs recalled right-hander Kohl Stewart from Triple-A Iowa. Stewart had a stint with the team earlier this season, going 1-1 with a 5.68 ERA in three starts.
In a corresponding move, right-hander Tommy Nance was optioned to Iowa. Nance was lights-out when the Cubs called him up in May, but he struggled mightily with his command in June. He walked eight, threw six wild pitches and hit two batters on his way to 7.36 ERA last month.
Wisdom NL Rookie of the Month
Infielder Patrick Wisdom was named the National League’s Rookie of the Month for June. He slashed .260/.333/.616 with eight home runs and a .950 OPS.