When a pitcher is in a blind funk, the best sight he can see is a bunch of guys in Cincinnati Reds uniforms.
Case in point: Chicago Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish.
In his two years wearing a Cubs uniform Darvish had never won a game in Wrigley Field. He was 0-and-3 with a 5.53 earned run average in 10 starts this season pitching in front of the ivy-covered walls.
But on Wednesday afternoon in Wrigley, Darvish had the Reds nibbling bird seed out of his right hand.
Darvish held the Reds to no runs and two hits over six innings and the Cubs bullpen took it from there for a 5-2 victory, although the Reds had nine baserunners over the last five innings.
It was a damaging blow to the Reds, who fell 7 1/2 games out of first place and lost the series two games to one. It was Cincinnati’s first series loss to the Cubs after winning the first three of the season.
As good as Darvish was, Reds starter Sonny Gray was just as masterful — except for two pitches. Kris Bryant crushed a two-out home run in the first and Addison Russell reached the bleachers with a two-out home run in the second.
After giving up Russell’s home run, Gray retired the next 13 Cubs and did not pitch out of the stretch the entire time he was in the game. He left for a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning.
But the Reds offense remained deathly silent. Their best offense the last two games has been the hit-by-pitch.
They were plunked seven times in the last two games, three on Wednesday. And one was costly. Derek Dietrich, who has made a cottage industry out of getting hit by pitches, was hit for the 20th time this season. This time, though, the Darvish pitch hit him on the right kneecap and Dietrich had to leave the game.
Shoddy base-running played a part when the Reds did have runners on base. Nick Senzel tried to score from third on a ground ball to third and David Bote threw him out in the sixth inning.
Darvish left the game after six, replaced by left hander Kyle Ryan. The Reds had runners on second and first with two outs in the seventh. It ended when Cubs catcher Victor Caratini picked Jose Iglesias off first base.
The Reds were helpless against Darvish, who has a whole Swiss Army knife full of pitches and worked as cool as buffet mashed potatoes.
And he lulls batters to sleep by working slower than an attorney billing hours, 30 to 35 seconds between deliveries.
Much-troubled Reds relief pitcher David Hernandez replaced Gray in the seventh. There had been no walks in the game, but Hernandez walked the first two batters.
A passed ball was charged to catcher Juan Graterol, called up from Class AAA Lousville before the game. That put runners on third and second with one out.
Jason Heyward fouled off five two-strike pitches, two of them very hard, then puled a two-run double into the right field corner and it was 4-0.
The Reds broke through in the eighth against an unlikely source. Cubs relief pitcher Brandon Kintzler had not given up a run in 59 days and none in his last 23 appearances in Wrigley Field, an all-time record.
But Jose Peraza doubled down the right field line and Nick Senzel singled him home and it was 4-1.
Joey Votto line to left and Bryant made a diving catch. Eugenio Suarez singled to right and the Reds had two on with one out and the potential tying run at the plate in Yasiel Puig.
Puig dumped a run-scoring single to left, cutting the lead to 4-2 and putting runners on third and first. But Phillip Ervin swung at the first pitch and hit into an inning-ending double play.
The two runs might have cost the Reds dearly. Nick Senzel pulled up lame scoring a run in the eighth and left the game.
All three Reds catchers are banged up — Tucker Barnhart, Curt Casali and Kyle Farmer. Dietrich and Senzel left the game with injuries. Pitcher Michael Lorenzen ended up playing center field, using Jose Peraza’s glove because he couldn’t find his.
Then it was back to his college days at Cal State-Fullerton for Lorenzen, where he played center field and came into the mound to pitch late in games.
When Matt Bowman gave up a pair of two-out singles to Javier Baez and Kris Bryant, manager David Bell brought Lorenzen in from center to pitch to Anthony Rizzo.
He couldn’t warm up in the bullpen, and reeived only the customary eight warm-up pitches on the mound.
Rizzo pushed one off third baseman Suarez’s glove — it was ruled a hit — and Baez scored to make it 5-2.
Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel made short work of the Reds in the ninth, a 1-2-3 inning, striking out two, and the Reds headed for Chicago O’Hare airport. They flew home to play four games against the St. Louis Cardinals, beginning Thursday night, their hopes of a .500 season or a playoff berth vanishing quickly.
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