Cubs, Reds hope for stellar June after disappointing May

One-run games haven’t been good to the Cincinnati Reds this season. Entering Friday’s game against the Chicago Cubs, the Reds had lost each of their past 10 games that ended with a difference of one run.

Until Friday, when they rallied for a 5-4 win. The Reds have now won five of their past seven games as part of a 9-18 May.

Now they’ll look to build on it in the second contest of their three-game series on Saturday in Chicago.

“It’s just momentum,” Cincinnati’s TJ Friedl said. “We’re going to carry that momentum into the month of June and just ride that momentum.”

Down by one in the seventh inning, Cincinnati took its first lead when pinch hitter Santiago Espinal hit a two-run home run to make the score 4-3 and went up 5-3 in the ninth when Jacob Hurtubise scored on Friedl’s single.

In the bottom half, Seiya Suzuki doubled to the left-field corner to pull the Cubs within one. Nick Madrigal came close to tying it on the play but was thrown out at the plate on a 93.3 mph bullet from Reds shortstop Elly De La Cruz.

“Watching him last year and watching his transition and watching him grow, he’s done incredible,” Friedl said of De La Cruz. “At this point, I don’t think there’s anything that’s too out of the ordinary, but when he makes crazy plays or does crazy things like that, it’s just Elly being Elly. It’s just what he does. He’s awesome.”

De La Cruz, 22, had 154 assists in 69 games as a shortstop as a rookie in 2023. He’s at 111 already this season through 57 games.

Hunter Greene (3-2, 3.06 ERA) will start Saturday’s game for Cincinnati. The right-hander is 3-1 with a 3.43 ERA in four career appearances against the Cubs, allowing eight runs on 11 hits with 30 strikeouts.

The Cubs, meanwhile, will look to avoid a sixth straight series loss.

Chicago has lost three in a row and finished 10-18 in May, dropping 11 of its past 14 games.

Third base coach Willie Harris shouldered the blame Friday, calling it a “bad send” when he waved in Madrigal, who was running from first. But the players know it’s up to them to get back on track.

“Willie’s one of the best third-base coaches in the game,” Madrigal said. “This time, it didn’t work. It’s a team game. We have this group and we believe in each other.”

The Cubs had eight hits in the game but went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position through eight innings.

“Our batting average on contact is [near] the worst in baseball,” president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said this week. “… I kind of look at the track record of this group. It was a really good offense last year. And there’s a lot of players with track records of performing above this level. … I think that the stuff we faced this month has been really good. But ultimately, you have to beat those pitchers to end up where we want to go.”

Justin Steele (0-2, 4.45) will be on the mound for Chicago. The left-hander has faced the Reds eight times (six starts) in his career, going 2-3 with a 7.53 ERA.

–Field Level Media