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Cubs bullpen implodes as Reds rally for 6-5 win at Wrigley Field: 'Days like this are going to happen'

Kyle Schwarber continues to cement his spot at the top of the lineup. Anthony Rizzo continues to take dead aim at the Budweiser sign beyond the right-field wall.

And the bullpen continues to cause headaches.

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After the Cubs eked across the go-ahead run in the eighth inning Friday, Steve Cishek gave up the lead — and quickly. He walked Joey Votto on a down-and-in 3-2 slider and surrendered a 445-foot home run to Eugenio Suarez in the Cubs’ 6-5 loss to the Reds at Wrigley Field.

Manager Joe Maddon defended Cishek, saying he “probably didn’t have a full tank, three-quarters maybe, so the stuff was not as clean or crisp. And Suarez is a pain in the butt, man.”

The mob of angry Cubs fans demanding the team acquire a legitimate closer will see those quotes and use them as fodder: Why are you trying to close a one-run game against a division rival with a journeyman whose arm is dragging? Didn’t Theo Epstein say every game counts?

“I would never jump on Cishek,” Maddon said. “He’s a rock and a huge part of our success. Just a tough day; it’s called baseball.”

It was a tough ending considering all the good things the Cubs did earlier.

They pushed across the run in the eighth on hustle and clever hitting. Rizzo blooped a single and swiped second, just his second stolen base of the year.

“(Amir Garrett) is a tough guy to string hits against,” Rizzo said.“So I took a shot and went with my instincts.”

He scored on an end-of-the-bat bleeder by pinch hitter Willson Contreras. Contreras got the best of reliever David Hernandez, but just barely, singling on an 0-2 pitch to score the hustling Rizzo.

The Cubs belted three home runs in the first three innings, two of them jaw-droppers.

Schwarber cranked a 449-foot Schwarbomb to right, his first career home run to lead off a game. It was so obviously gone, right fielder Yasiel Puig didn’t move.

Two innings later, Kris Bryant cranked a two-run homer that cut through the wind and sailed into the bleachers in left-center.

The next batter was Rizzo, who received a fake invoice for (and real donation of) $10,473 after smashing the “d” in “Budweiser” on Wednesday night. His 426-foot blast Friday did less damage but appeared to crash into the giant Cubs lineup listed on the video board just beneath the Budweiser sign.

“Just happy it stayed fair,” he said.

That gave Rizzo a team-best 14 homers — 10 in his last 21 games.

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Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo discusses nearly hitting the Budweiser sign again on Friday, May 24, 2019. (Teddy Greenstein/Chicago Tribune)

Down 4-0, the Reds chipped away against Kyle Hendricks. After retiring the first nine batters, Hendricks gave up a cheap run in the fourth and two legit ones in the sixth on a Puig home run.

“I literally made one bad pitch,” Hendricks said.

The Reds tied it in the seventh off Brad Brach and ruined Cishek’s day when he allowed just his second homer of the season.

“I’m not going to make any excuses,” Cishek said. “Tried to go down and away (against Suarez). I just left it middle. Bad timing.”

Bad timing, too, considering the relievers coughed up Monday’s 5-4 loss to the Phillies.

The bullpen lacks a closer, especially with Pedro Strop rehabbing a hamstring injury. Strop could be activated within days.

Yet the seemingly beleaguered group remains one of the most effective — and least used — in the National League. Entering Friday, Cubs relievers had the league’s third-lowest ERA and lowest usage among the top six bullpens.

“They can’t come in every time and get the job done, but when they’re making their pitches and attacking, there’s nothing else you can ask for,” Hendricks said. “They’ve been there for us all year. Days like this are going to happen.”

Twitter @TeddyGreenstein

 
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