Down 15-5 after seven, the Cubs sent shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the mound in the eighth. He lobbed high looping pitches at 40 miles an hour and the Reds scored five runs.
It was the most runs scored by a Reds team since they scored 21 against the Philadelphia Phillies on September 4, 1999 … but those five runs in the eighth Thursday shouldn’t count.
Kyle Farmer and Nick Senzel led the Reds’ 20-hit afternoon with four hits each. Farmer had two home runs and drove in five runs. Senzel, 1 for 12 since coming off the injured list, had four singles and two walks.
The beneficiary of the run explosion was Reds starter Hunter Greene, who needed strong support because he was not at his best.
In five innings, Greene gave up five runs and seven hits that included three Cubs home runs.
It was appropriate because in most of his starts this season the Cincinnati bats have not been helpful.
It started on the downbeat for Greene when he gave up two runs in the first inning, something the Cubs do often.
Chicago has scored 37 runs in the first inning this season, second best in the majors. And the Cubs scored in the first inning in three of the four games during this series.
And it got worse in the second inning when Nico Hoerner led by depositing a 3-and-0 pitch into the left field seats for a 3-0 Cubs lead.
The Reds scrambled back for two in the bottom of the second against Cubs left-hander Justin Steele. Tyler Stephenson opened with a single and Kyle Farmer launched a two-run homer over the left field wall.
So it was 3-2, Cubs, when the Reds came to bat and went bat bonkers. And the game was decided before Chicago’s late-game comedy act.
The eight-run third:
—Nick Senzel walked.
—On a 3-and-2 count, Senzel was running and Bradon Drury singled to right, sending Senzel to third.
—Tommy Pham doubled to left, scoring Senzel to tie it, 3-3.
—Joey Votto walked to load the bases.
—Tyler Stephenson singled to left for two runs and a 5-3 lead.
(Scott Effross replaced Justin Steele.)
—Kyle Farmer bunted, moving the runners to third and second.
—Pinch-hitter Tyler Naquin was walked intentionally, filling the bases.
—Albert Almora Jr., former No. 1 Cubs draft pick, applied more pain to his old team with a two-run single and it was 7-3.
—Matt Reynolds lined one to left on which Ian Happ tried for a diving catch. The ball whizzed past him to the wall for a two-run triple to push it to 9-3.
—Nick Senzel, up for the second time in the inning, singled to right for a run and a 10-3 lead.
It was eight runs, six hits, three walks and a rare sacrifice bunt.
Perhaps with the 10-3 lead, Greene relaxed too much … or the long sit in the dugout watching his teammates, had an effect on Greene.
He gave up back-to-back home runs to Willson Contreras and Ian Happ to open the fifth, cutting Cincinnati’s margin to 10-5.
The Reds reclaimed one of the runs when Farmer led the fifth with his second home run of the the game and it was 11-5.
Rain was falling off and on during the first five innings and before the Cubs came to bat in the sixth a heavy downpour forced a stoppage and the tarpaulin was pulled over the infield.
After a one-hour rain delay, the Reds scored two in the sixth, two more in the seventh and the five gifted runs in the eighth.
And there were more hit-by-pitch shenanigans following Wednesday’s poorly-aimed pitches at Joey Votto and Chicago’s Patrick Wisdom.
In the seventh inning, Reds relief pitcher Joel Kuhnel hit Willson Contreras. It resulted in protesting Cubs manager David Ross earning an ejection for the second straight game.
In the Reds seventh, Votto faced Rowan Wick, the pitcher who nearly hit Votto in the head Wednesday. Votto then walked on four pitches and he and Wick exchanged words.
On Thursday, Wick struck Votto out on three pitches, never coming close to Votto. But Votto again had words for Vick and the Cubs, but nothing further developed.