McCoy: Aquino’s home run not enough for Reds in loss to Cubs

Ian Happ, a former UC Bearcat, stars again at GABP

When Ian Happ walks into Great American Ball Park, it is like he is walking into his private backyard, complete with his own Garden of Eden.

Happ makes it happen.

The Chicago Cubs left fielder is a product of the University of Cincinnati, and he certainly feels at home in the Queen City with a baseball bat in his hands.

As he nearly always does, Happ destroyed the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night at GABP, leading the Cubs to a 7-4 victory in the opener of a four-game series.

Happ, owner of a .360 career batting average in GABP, drove in four runs with a double and a three-run home run. Those, along with a three-run home run by Patrick Wisdom, were enough to hang a loss on Reds starter Vladimir Gutierrez (0-6, 8.70 ERA).

Had the Reds (12-29) swept the four-game series, they could have climbed into a fifth-place tie in the National League Central. Instead, they are assured of staying in last place as they are now five games behind the Cubs (17-24).

Center fielder Nick Senzel, back on board after a 20-day stay on the injured list, saved Gutierrez some early grief.

Senzel made back-to-back defensive gems in the second inning. First he went above the wall in right center to pull back a home run bid by Happ. Then he ran down a potential double in left center by Yan Gomes.

Gutierrez, though, didn’t escape the fourth when the Cubs put four runs on the scoreboard. He gave up back-to-back doubles to Seiya Suzuki and Happ for a run. With two outs, Alfonso Rivas singled off the chest of Mike Moustakas, and Patrick Wisdom unloaded a three-run home run, his fourth home run in four games and 10th of the season.

That gave the Cubs a 4-0 lead.

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Cubs starter Drew Smyly was in deep trouble in first when he gave up a double to Brandon Drury and walked two to fill the bases with two outs.

That brought up Aristides Aquino. Smyly fed him three straight breaking balls and three strikes to end the threat.

Smyly, 1-5 with a 3.97 ERA when the night began, suddenly was unhittable. He retired 13 in a row before Tommy Pham came to bat with one out in the sixth. Pham found the left field seats for a home run.

Joey Votto then leaned into a pitch and got hit as Smyly and the Cubs bench protested that Votto purposely got hit.

With two outs, Smyly went to 3-and-2 on Aquino, the man he struck out in the first inning on three pitches with the bases loaded. This time Smyly hung a breaking pitch, and The Punisher punished one 429 feet, a three-run home run to draw the Reds to within 4-3.

That only lasted until the Cubs came to bat against relief pitcher Jeff Hoffman in the seventh. No. 9 hitter Christopher Morel singled, and with two outs, Suzuki walked.

Reds manager David Bell replaced Hoffman with Luis Cessa to face Reds-killer Happ, who killed them again. He whirled on Cessa’s first pitch and planted it over the center field wall. The three-run home run gave the Cubs a 7-3 lead.

Aquino was so bad most of this season, he was sent back to Triple-A Louisville a couple of weeks ago, lugging a 2-for-41 performance this season and 23 strikeouts with him.

On Sunday in Toronto, he doubled home two runs in Cincinnati’s 3-2 win over the Blue Jays. Then he hit the three-run home run Monday in the sixth.

And he wasn’t done. He repeated his home run swing in the eighth, a solo shot to left that cut Chicago’s lead to 7-4.

Cubs closer David Robertson put the Reds to sleep in the ninth with his seventh save as he struck out pinch-hitter Tyler Naquin, retired pinch-hitter Colin Moran on a fly ball struck out Senzel. Senzel was 0-for-10 on his rehab assignment at Louisville and was 0-for-5 Monday with three strikeouts.

The Reds struck out 10 times and stranded six runners.

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