The Cincinnati Reds hope an intensely emotional night might give them a spark as they near the end of a season-high, 11-game homestand.
The Chicago Cubs are just looking to regain some composure as the teams meet Friday night in the opener of a three-game weekend series.
The Reds came from behind and beat the major league save leader Thursday night, beating the San Diego Padres 5-4 to even their homestand at 4-4.
Mark Melancon had converted 25 of 28 save chances before blowing a 4-3 lead in the ninth. Kyle Farmer hit a solo homer with one out, and five batters later, Tyler Stephenson delivered a walk-off single. The Reds ended San Diego’s 88-game win streak when leading after eight innings.
Earlier in the game, the video boards in Great American Ball Park revealed that Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker edged Mookie Betts to become the first pair of Reds outfielders to start in the All-Star Game since Frank Robinson and Gus Bell in 1956.
Castellanos and Winker tipped their cap to the crowd’s standing ovation as both came off the field. Winker broke into tears three times in his postgame press conference while describing what the honor meant to him.
“Getting to represent the city of Cincinnati is something I hold with a lot of pride,” Winker said. “It’s a huge honor for me. It’s a dream come true. This is something I didn’t expect by any means. Who doesn’t say they don’t want to play in the All-Star Game? It’s a big honor.”
Winker, a 27-year-old Buffalo native who went to high school in Orlando, thanked the Buffalo Bills and Orlando Magic for helping in his All-Star Game push.
The Cubs used Thursday to try to forget their Wednesday meltdown in Milwaukee. They scored seven runs in the first inning, only to see Milwaukee bounce back and pull away for a 15-7 win.
“It should’ve been a pretty easy task to complete,” said Cubs starter Jake Arrieta, who couldn’t protect the seven-run cushion. “It was all frustrating.”
“I know the trade deadline is on the (mind) of the outside world,” Cubs manager David Ross said, “but I really think we’re focused on the day-to-day process. And we’ll continue to get guys back and play good baseball. I think we’ve got, still, things to work on, as I say a lot. I think we’re a good team.”
Even with Thursday’s thrilling win, the Reds are 40-40 as they prepare to end the first half of the season.
“Not good enough,” Reds first baseman Joey Votto said. “It’s really important over this next bit to show that we’re going to be a competitive team all the way to the very end. We have to get hot soon. We have to play good ball, for sure.”
Cubs right-hander Alec Mills (3-1, 5.11 ERA) will make his 17th appearance (fifth start) of the season Friday in the series opener. In his latest outing, Saturday against the Dodgers, he received a no-decision after allowing two runs on career-high-tying eight hits in four innings.
Mills gave up three runs in an inning of relief in his last appearance vs. the Reds on May 2. He is 3-0 with a 3.74 ERA in eight career outings (five starts) against Cincinnati.
The Reds will see the return of right-hander Sonny Gray (1-4, 3.42 ERA) from the 10-day injured list on Friday. He had been sidelined since straining his right groin in a start against the Milwaukee Brewers on June 8.
Gray made his lone rehabilitation start Saturday for Triple-A Louisville, throwing three scoreless innings. He allowed one hit and three walks while striking out four.
Gray owns a 4-3 record with a 3.20 ERA in eight career starts against the Cubs.
–Field Level Media