CINCINNATI — An uncharacteristically short start from right-hander Keegan Thompson kicked off the Cubs’ 8-5 loss Sunday to the Reds.
Thompson was charged with four runs in 1⅔ innings. It was the first time in two months he had left a game before the fourth.
He faced only four batters in a scoreless first, but he needed 31 pitches to get through the inning.
‘‘They didn’t really chase out of the zone,’’ Thompson said. ‘‘They did a good job of making me throw strikes. And when I was in the zone, they did a good job of fouling pitches off and having long at-bats and building my pitch count. So I have to give them credit with that.
‘‘But I have to throw strikes off-speed. And if I don’t do that, the fastball doesn’t really do what it’s supposed to.’’
The second inning was no more efficient. He walked the first two batters and gave up a three-run home run to Aristides Aquino. By then, he already had surpassed 50 pitches. A strikeout, a lineout and a double later, Thompson’s pitch count hit 70, and Anderson Espinoza replaced him on the mound.
‘‘He was getting ahead, throwing some quality pitches, and then couldn’t put them away,’’ catcher Yan Gomes said. ‘‘We were kind of trying everything, going through his whole arsenal to try to put them away. They were fouling it off. And that’s sometimes what teams will do. They kept spoiling his pitches, getting him into deep counts. Next thing you know, we started too hard to try to get ahead and trying something new to start with to see if that was the deal. And we started losing a little bit of the strike zone.’’
The Cubs’ offense rallied with three homers to take the lead, but it was short-lived. Manager David Ross called on Espinoza and Michael Rucker to bridge the gap between Thompson’s short start and the back end of the bullpen, and the two combined to allow four runs in 4⅓ innings.
For the first time this season, the Cubs hit three homers in back-to-back games. On Saturday, they rode that firepower to a 7-2 victory. On Sunday, homers from Patrick Wisdom, Gomes and Christopher Morel were wasted in a loss.
Gomes and Morel launched their blasts back-to-back in the fourth. It was the Cubs’ sixth set of back-to-back homers this season.
Contreras out of lineup
A day game after a night game would have been a natural time for Willson Contreras to get a day off, even if he hadn’t rolled his ankle on the basepaths Thursday, finished that game and played another behind the plate Saturday. Under the circumstances, however, it made sense to check in on his health.
‘‘He’s fine,’’ Ross said before the game. ‘‘He could have played today. I think it just made a lot of sense [to give him a day off]. . . . The ankle is fine.’’