Injury, insult in Reds' finale loss to Cubs
Owings, Dickerson leave with ailments as Chicago sweeps
CHICAGO -- The Reds already had lost the first five games of their six-game road trip, so they could have used some good luck in their series finale against the Cubs on Sunday.
They got none.
The Reds lost their starting pitcher and right fielder to injuries and were on the wrong end of a disputed call at home plate, as they lost, 5-2. Cincinnati fell 7 1/2 games out of first in the National League Central behind Chicago, which moved in front of St. Louis by a half-game. The Reds were two games out of first and one game over .500 on July 5, but since then, they are 4-14. They were outscored, 43-20, and their starting rotation did not record a single quality start during their first winless multi-series road trip in five years.
"You play 162 games, you're going to have tough stretches," Jerry Hairston Jr. said. "Obviously, we're in one right now. Every team goes through it. Even if you're a first-place team, you're going to go through tough stretches, and hopefully we'll get into a stretch where everything goes our way."
Hairston was involved in a critical play in the eighth inning with the Reds down, 3-1. Edwin Encarnacion drew a leadoff walk from reliever Angel Guzman, and one out later, pinch-hitter Laynce Nix hit a bloop single to right. After Craig Tatum walked to load the bases, Hairston came up as a pinch-hitter.
He lofted a fly ball to center field. Kosuke Fukudome camped under it and fired to catcher Koyie Hill, who appeared to miss the tag on Encarnacion, but umpire Laz Diaz called him out for an inning-ending double play. Encarnacion and manager Dusty Baker argued with Diaz, but to no avail.
"Edwin was safe at the plate," Baker said. "That's what I told him, that he never tagged him. I saw space. I know what I saw. Every day, there's a call. Big play, huge play."
Hairston had a good view of the play and said Diaz clearly missed the call.
"I've never been an umpire," Hairston said. "Maybe with where he was at, he had a bad angle at it or whatever, but he really missed it. Like I said, Laz is a really good umpire, works extremely hard, but he missed it. Guys are human."
The Reds scratched across a run in the ninth on Brandon Phillips' RBI groundout, but the Cubs had scored twice in the eighth against Arthur Rhodes to put the game out of reach.
Joey Votto had given the Reds a short-lived 1-0 lead in the first, when he turned on a Rich Harden fastball and crushed it for his 15th home run of the season and 12th in 27 career games against the Cubs. But Harden (7-6) responded by setting down the last 16 batters he faced, including eight by strikeout, before he exited after six innings.
"I was throwing pretty good," Harden said. "The pitch to Votto wasn't the right one. It ran back over the plate a little bit and he happened to get it when the wind was blowing hard out to right field. It was a bad pitch. Other than that, I felt good."
Micah Owings (6-11) lost his command during a 33-pitch second inning in which he walked three batters and gave up a single. The final walk of the frame, to Fukudome, forced in the tying run.
Owings struggled again in the third. After retiring the first two hitters on fly balls to the warning track, he walked Milton Bradley before Alfonso Soriano laced a double to the left-field wall that scored Bradley and put the Cubs ahead for good. Owings left after the third with a stiff right shoulder.
The Reds' bullpen kept the team in the game, although Nick Masset allowed an RBI single to Jake Fox in the seventh. Then in the eighth, Hill followed a Reed Johnson single with a shot into the right-center-field gap. Chris Dickerson made a diving attempt but the ball went off his glove, and Hill rumbled into third with a triple. Dickerson jammed his left shoulder and had to leave. Two batters later, Fukudome singled in Hill to make it 5-1.
The Reds return home Monday to take on the Padres in the start of a 10-game homestand.
"It's just unfortunate things didn't go our way," Hairston said. "Obviously, things didn't go our way this road trip, but hopefully, we've got a long homestand, we'll bounce back."
Andrew Simon is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.