Tempers flare as Cubs blank Reds

CINCINNATI, OH - JUNE 29: Scooter Gennett #3 of the Cincinnati Reds turns a double play over Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Chicago Cubs in the third inning at Great American Ball Park on June 29, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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CINCINNATI, OH - JUNE 29: Scooter Gennett #3 of the Cincinnati Reds turns a double play over Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Chicago Cubs in the third inning at Great American Ball Park on June 29, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Sunday’s series finale against the Chicago Cubs will mark the exact halfway point of the Cincinnati Reds’ 2019 season – Game No. 81 – and while their record is much better than last season’s at the same time, they’re still not where they want to be.

Cincinnati, 34-46 after 80 games last season, slipped to 37-43 on Saturday with a 6-0 loss to Chicago in the second game of a three-game series. Luis Castillo bounced back from lasting only 3-2/3 innings on June 22 in Milwaukee to turn in seven innings of three-hit, one-run baseball, but he left trailing, 1-0, after giving up Jason Heyward’s second homer in two games with two outs in the second inning.

Javier Baez, the National League’s starting shortstop for the All-Star Game on July 9 in Cleveland, broke the game open with an eighth-inning, opposite-field grand slam to right.

The Reds failed to get a runner past second base while suffering their fifth loss in their last six games after closing to within two games of .500 with a six-game winning streak. Frustration might’ve fueled an eighth-inning incident when Yasiel Puig walked toward the mound and had to be restrained after being hit in the left thigh by a Pedro Strop pitch.

Manager David Bell was ejected when pinch-hitter Jose Peraza was hit by a pitch with two outs in the ninth after plate umpire and crew chief Mark Wegner had warned both benches in the wake of the Puig incident. Peraza was the third Reds batter to be hit by a pitch in the last three innings.

“I didn’t believe it was intentional,” Wegner told a pool reporter after the game.

“I don’t like it when our guys get hit,” Bell said. “I care about our players. (Wegner) said he didn’t think he did it on purpose. The bottom line is I don’t like it when our players get hit.”

Puig said he and Strop don’t have any kind of history and wasn’t sure if Strop hit him intentionally.

“You’ll have to ask him,” Puig said. “Me and my teammates just want to go out tomorrow and win the game and win the series and forget what happened today.

“At the end of the day, nothing happened. Nobody got hurt. What’s important tomorrow is to go out and win the game and win the series. That’s more important than fighting with the other team.”

Strop claimed to have just been trying to not throw a fat pitch down the middle on 3-0 and seemed surprised by Puig’s reaction.

“He just react like that,” Strop said. “I don’t know. He just act stupid. I don’t know what to say about it. It’s not a secret he’s stupid. I have nothing against him, but he’s stupid.”

Jose Quintana, who was 0-2 and had given up a combined eight earned runs over 10-1/3 innings in his first two starts against the Reds this season, was a touch better than Castillo. Quintana (5-7) finished seven shutout innings with no walks and four strikeouts.

The Reds had scored at least one run in five of their previous seven games and six of their last nine, and they seemed poised to add a game with runners on first and second with one out, but Puig blistered a line drive right at second baseman Addison Russell before Jose Iglesias – who went into the game leading the National League with a .404 average with runners in scoring position – flied out to center field.

Cincinnati went a combined 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position in the first two innings and 0-for-7 in the game. The last two outs of the second were the first of 11 straight batters retired by Quintana before Joey Votto led off the sixth with a single.

Castillo (7-3) pitched out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fifth when he coaxed Middletown’s Kyle Schwarber into an inning-ending double play, the back end of which needed a 67-second video review to confirm the out.

“He made a lot of big pitches – got some double plays and big outs,” Bell said. “He made pitches when he had to. He was back on track today.”

The latest in a series of base-running blunders cut short Cincinnati’s seventh inning. Derek Dietrich was on first base with one out after being hit by a pitch for the 16thtime, the most in the majors this season. Curt Casali lofted a fly ball to short right field that Heyward – a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder – caught and threw to first in time to catch Dietrich sliding back in for an inning-ending double play.

Baez hit a low-and-away Jared Hughes sinker for his fifth career Great American Ball Park home run.

“From where I was standing, it looked like a good pitch,” Bell said. “He went down and got it. He has the ability to do that.”

Notes: The crowd of 41,360 was Cincinnati’s second sellout of the season and the second-largest overall behind Opening Day’s 44,049. … Quintana and Castillo each threw 101 pitches in seven innings. Quintana threw 63 strikes, Castillo 62. … Votto’s first inning single extended to 11 games his hitting streak against the Cubs. … Nick Senzel celebrated his 24th birthday on Saturday. … Casali was Cincinnati’s starting catcher for the fifth consecutive game, the longest stretch for a Reds catcher this season. Tucker Barnhart, who went on the injured list on Friday, started the first four games of the season. … Game-time temperature was 91 degrees.

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