The Cincinnati Reds hope for a different result when Chris Michalak opposes fellow left-hander Rich Hill for the second time in less than a week in the opener of a four-game series with the visiting Chicago Cubs on Friday.
Michalak (1-3, 4.88 ERA) lasted 4 2-3 innings while allowing three runs— two earned—and seven hits in the Reds’ 4-0 defeat on Saturday at Wrigley Field. Hill, meanwhile, threw a two-hitter and struck out 10 in his first career complete game.
“I wish I had a better outcome,” said Michalak, who was born in Joliet, Ill. “That’s the way the ball bounces.”
That defeat is part of Cincinnati’s 7-17 stretch since Aug. 24, when the Reds (74-78) were in a virtual tie with St. Louis atop the NL Central. They’ve since fallen 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Cardinals and 5 1/2 behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL wild card.
Michalak has hurt Cincinnati’s cause, going 0-3 with a 6.63 ERA in four starts this year.
Losing Ken Griffey Jr. to a dislocated toe on his right foot also hasn’t helped. Griffey has not appeared since Sept. 4, when he got hurt attempting to rob Barry Bonds of a homer in Cincinnati’s 5-4 loss to San Francisco.
Griffey, placed on the disabled list eight times since his 2000 arrival to Cincinnati, could be used in a pinch-hitting spot or might miss the rest of the season.
“I don’t know,” Reds manager Jerry Narron said. “It’s day-to-day. I’ve never dislocated a toe. I have no clue what it feels like to stop and start and play major league baseball with a dislocated toe.”
The man who replaced Griffey in center field, Ryan Freel, will miss the rest of the season. He broke his thumb Tuesday night diving for a ball, and left Wednesday’s 7-2 loss to Houston in the fourth inning.
He’s among the NL’s top 10 with 37 stolen bases.
Freel was among the many Reds last week who could not figure out Hill, who became the first Cubs rookie to pitch a shutout since Kyle Farnsworth on Aug. 29, 1999.
The last-place Cubs (62-91) hope Hill can continue to finish strong as they seek to rebuild their injury-riddled roster for next season. He is 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA in four September starts, striking out 33 and walking six in 30 innings.
Hill lost his first four starts of the season and had a 9.31 ERA before being demoted to Triple-A Iowa, but has stayed with the Cubs since being recalled on July 27.
“It was a lot of ups and downs and I learned a lot,” Hill said. “I got it together and came back and now I’m throwing the ball with a lot more conviction and confidence.”
Chicago also has experienced the loss of a central figure with Derrek Lee possibly out for the rest of the season while he attends to his daughter’s illness. Lee, limited to 49 games this season mostly because of two stints on the disabled list, left the team before the Reds’ visit to Chicago last Friday and the Cubs are 3-3 since.
Cincinnati has lost five of six with Chicago to fall to 6-9 in the season series. This will be the Reds’ final series of the season at home, where they are 39-38 this year.