Chicago Cubs Score and Recap (5/31/24): Reds 5, Cubs 4 – Bad Send Derails Potential Comeback

The Cubs continue to find new ways to lose as they finished a very difficult month of May with an incredibly frustrating defeat at the hands of the Reds. The game ended with a chaotic bottom of the 9th inning that featured bizarre decisions by Chicago’s coaching staff and the home plate umpire that led to a one-run Cincinnati win.

Ian Happ gave his team the lead with a two-run homer off of Graham Ashcraft in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Javier Assad didn’t have the best control and had to battle most of Friday, but kept his opponents in check for the most part. The Reds finally got to him in the 4th inning with back-to-back RBI singles from Tyler Stephenson and Nick Martini that evened up the score at 2-2.

Happ put Chicago back ahead with a bases-loaded walk against reliever Fernando Cruz in the 5th but they were not able to add to the 3-2 advantage. Drew Smyly surrendered a two-run go-ahead home run to pinch-hitter Santiago Espinal to put the Reds up 4-3 in the 7th and TJ Friedl added an RBI single off of Héctor Neris to increase the lead to 5-3 in the 8th.

The Cubs got the first two men on base against closer Alexis Díaz in the 9th. In a bit of a head-scratching move, manager Craig Counsell pinch-hit for power threat Patrick Wisdom with Nick Madrigal. It appeared that Díaz hit the diminutive infielder with a pitch to load the bases but umpire Brennan Miller ruled the pitch hit the knob of his bat for a foul ball and an inconclusive review upheld the call.

The at-bat eventually ended in a forceout that put runners on the corners with one out. Seiya Suzuki then ripped a double into left field that scored the runner from third. Madrigal was inexplicably waved home in an attempt to score all the way from first base and was thrown out at the plate by several steps. Cody Bellinger then flew out to the warning track and Cincinnati escaped with a 5-4 victory. (Box score)

Key Moment

The decision to send Madrigal home with only one out and Bellinger on deck doesn’t make much sense in any circumstance but certainly not with the cannon of Elly De La Cruz making the relay from short. The fact the final out would have been an easy sacrifice fly if the runner had held at third makes it even more frustrating.

Why the Cubs Lost

They had a very good chance to win this game with better execution and decision-making. The bullpen continues to have issues holding leads.

Stats That Matter

  • Even without his best stuff, Assad always battles and gives his team a chance to win: 5.1 IP, 2 R, 5 H, 7 K, and 3 BB.
  • Pete Crow-Armstrong had a pair of hits and just missed hitting a home run Friday.
  • Happ is really starting to heat up at the plate.

Bottom Line

Perhaps it’s fitting the disastrous month of May ended with this squandered opportunity. The Cubs are a sloppy chaotic mess at the moment and, frankly, expectations were higher with Counsell taking over as manager. A symptom of that messiness is Madrigal, who has made two crucial mistakes in the last week that contributed to losses. It’s past time to cut bait with a player that offers so little value and continues to make critical errors.

On Deck

Chicago tries to clean up their act in game two Saturday at 6:15pm CT. Justin Steele looks for his first win of the season against hard-throwing Hunter Greene in a contest televised exclusively on Fox with a radio broadcast on 670 The Score.

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