Home Sports 3 takeaways from the Chicago Cubs’ 7-6 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, including a rally cut short in a 7th-inning sequence

3 takeaways from the Chicago Cubs’ 7-6 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, including a rally cut short in a 7th-inning sequence

by staff

CINCINNATI — Twice the Chicago Cubs lineup gave Drew Smyly a multirun lead.

Twice the veteran left-hander squandered it in the bottom half of the inning.


Monday’s rocky start against the Cincinnati Reds certainly wasn’t the season debut Smyly envisioned, especially when a pair of three-run innings by the offense in the first and fifth were wasted.

Those blown leads proved to be the difference in the Cubs’ 7-6 loss.


“It was a frustrating outing,” Smyly said. “It’s not the one you want to start the year. … I mean, our offense scored a lot of runs, plenty to win a game. I let us down tonight.”

Here are three takeaways from the loss.

Patrick Wisdom had an inkling from the on-deck circle — before catcher interference during Trey Mancini’s at-bat put runners on first and second with nobody out — that he would be called on to deliver a sacrifice bunt in the seventh with the Cubs trailing by one.

Wisdom isn’t an obvious choice to attempt a sacrifice bunt. The slugger had successfully put down two in his big-league career entering Monday and only three between 2015 and 2020 as he progressed to the upper levels of the minors.

His suspicion was confirmed when he received word from the dugout as he stepped toward home plate. Wisdom got ahead of Reds reliever Fernando Cruz 3-0, took the next pitch for a called strike, then bunted a popout to Cruz on an inside four-seam fastball.

The Cubs had Nick Madrigal available on the bench, and his contact profile might have been valuable in that moment, but manager David Ross opted to keep Wisdom in the spot with the sacrifice bunt call.

“In my mind, there’s a lot of good there if we get that bunt down,” Ross said.

Wisdom was dealing with a sore left wrist after getting drilled in the fifth. Although his wrist felt tender on swings, Wisdom said postgame X-rays came back clean. Asked why he didn’t pinch hit for Wisdom because of his wrist, Ross replied, “There’s a lot of factors within that.”


“He kept telling me it was good,” Ross added. “He’s one of our better bunters, to be honest with you, and got in a 3-1 count.”

Ross debated whether to let Wisdom swing once he reached the 3-1 count.

“I didn’t, and a bad result, but he’s a really good bunter, really good player,” Ross said. “I thought the matchup favored us getting that guy over to second and third and it just didn’t work out.”

The Cubs still had a prime opportunity to erase the deficit. Ross went to the bench for back-to-back pinch hitters after Eric Hosmer struck out against lefty reliever Reiver Sanmartin for the second out.

Ross called on both reserve catchers, first replacing designated hitter Edwin Ríos with Luis Torrens, who walked on four pitches. Yan Gomes subbed in for Tucker Barnhart and went down swinging on three pitches to end the seventh.

“He gets that first strike and Gomes gets into swing mode a little bit,” Ross said. “(Sanmartin) made some pitches, but everybody fought that entire inning, the entire game. Really good at-bats. They made pitches when they had to and we couldn’t get that zero after some big innings.”


It was only the fourth game, but Ross’ moves in a leverage offensive spot provide insight on how he wants to utilize a four-man bench that features two catchers. There haven’t been many opportunities the previous three seasons to evaluate Ross’ in-game decisions because of either a rebuilding roster or games that lack postseason meaning within a month or two.

The expectations are shifting around what this roster can become after the offseason additions, making Ross’ moves in the seventh an interesting sequence. Based on the lefty Sanmartin’s splits, he valued matching up with right-handed hitters. Madrigal again could have been in play, this time for Ríos; instead he pinch ran for Hosmer with two outs in the ninth as the potential go-ahead run.

Cubs starter Drew Smyly pitches against the Reds in the first inning Monday, April 3, 2023, in Cincinnati.

The Reds’ well-placed contact cost Smyly in the first.

He wanted to be aggressive and fill up the zone with a three-run lead. Walking the first batter set the tone of the inning. The Reds’ approach produced balls in play that found their way through the Cubs defense.

The Reds weren’t crushing the ball off Smyly in the first — three of their four hits had an exit velocity below 85 mph — but they landed cleanly to quickly erase the Cubs’ 3-0 lead. Cincinnati’s first five batters reached.

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“It’s definitely frustrating because I feel like I’m executing my pitches,” Smyly said. “I could’ve mixed and matched much better. I kind of got away from my game plan. But at the same time, they didn’t really hit a fastball hard until the the last batter.”


Jason Vosler’s two-out, three-run homer in the fifth knocked Smyly out of the game. Smyly was rightfully annoyed he allowed a left-handed hitter to take him deep in that spot. The Cubs need a veteran to deliver more consistency when the offense is putting up runs.

Smyly got in a groove midway through the second, retiring the next seven batters. He ran into trouble in the fourth, loading the bases with two outs on a triple, hit batter and walk, but he forced Wil Myers to foul out to end the inning.

He nearly finessed his way through another tricky inning in the fifth until Vosler delivered the blow.

The Cubs' Cody Bellinger (24) celebrates with teammates after hitting a three-run home run against the Reds in the first inning Monday, April 3, 2023, in Cincinnati.

Dansby Swanson’s electric start to his Cubs career continued. He recorded his third three-hit game through four games, becoming the first Cub since at least 1901 to accomplish the feat.

Three other newcomers ended their brief 0-fers to open the season. Cody Bellinger’s first hit, a three-run homer to right, put the Cubs ahead in the first. Hosmer had three hits and drove in two runs, while Barnhart, in his first game back at Great American Ball Park since departing the Reds after the 2021 season, singled in his first at-bat.

“That’s a sense of relief,” Hosmer said. “It feels good to get that first one out of the way and add on to it. It just feels good to contribute to the offense. Wish we could have won that one. Like the fight we had at the end there.”

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