Reds 8, Cubs 2
The Chicago Cubs know all too well how he feels.
Milton allowed one run over seven innings to help the Reds rout the Cubs 8-2 on Wednesday, sweeping a three-game set at Wrigley Field and sending Chicago to its eighth straight loss.
“I’ve been frustrated,” Milton said. “I would say I’m the biggest reason we struggled in the first half. I really struggled. It was something I hadn’t experienced before.”
There were no such problems on Wednesday. Ryan Freel homered on the game’s first pitch and the Reds scored seven in the fourth to back a strong performance by Milton and win their eighth straight road game—their longest such streak since they won nine in a row in April 2001.
Milton, who signed a $25.5 million, three-year contract in December, has spent most of the season with an ERA hovering around 7.00. But he shut down the Cubs, who may be even more of a disappointment this year.
Chicago, at 54-60, fell six games under .500 for the first time this season. The Cubs also lost eight in a row approaching the All-Star break—they have not dropped nine straight since May 2002.
Meanwhile, the Reds have quietly played quality ball of late. They’re 25-19 since June 22, while the Cubs are 18-26 over the same stretch.
Freel was 2-for-3, driving in three runs and scoring two before leaving with a strained right quadriceps. He sent the first pitch from Rich Hill (0-2) beyond the left-field bleachers for his third homer of the season and first leadoff shot of his career. He added a two-run single in the fourth.
Ken Griffey Jr. singled and doubled for the Reds.
Cincinnati broke it open in the fourth and tied a season high for runs in an inning. Freel hit a two-run single and his teammates drew three bases-loaded walks.
Milton (6-12) allowed four hits, striking out three and walking one. After Michael Barrett’s solo homer in the second, he retired the next 15 batters.
“He looked like he was keeping hitters off balance,” said Freel, who is day to day. “The numbers don’t really show what kind of pitcher he is. He ran into a few bad games, which skyrocketed his ERA.”
“Seven runs in the fourth—that can relax anybody,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. “There is nothing worse than facing a relaxed pitcher. His ball is moving, he is getting strike one, he can throw any pitch at any count.”
After reaching the seventh inning for the third time in four starts, Milton has a 6.48 ERA. He only threw 98 pitches, but manager Jerry Narron said going for the complete game wasn’t an option.
“I just really thought that with the day he had … it was best to get him out of there,” he said. “I just thought he pitched so well, I (would rather not) mess it up on my part.”
Kerry Wood pitched a scoreless ninth for the Cubs in his third relief appearance this season.
Poor control doomed the Cubs, who walked 10 batters—two below their season-high.
Hill allowed six runs on four hits and four walks in three-plus innings. He left after walking in two runs with no outs in the fourth.
After allowing singles to Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns, Hill walked Jason LaRue, Edwin Encarnacion and Milton to give the Reds a 3-1 lead. Michael Wuertz relieved, and the runs and walks continued to mount.
Freel greeted him with a single and Griffey hit an RBI double with one out. With two outs, LaRue drew a bases-loaded walk for an 8-1 lead.
In his last two starts, Hill has allowed 13 runs and 11 hits in 4 1-3 innings. That includes a seven-run outing in 1 1-3 innings against the New York Mets on Friday.
Barrett tied it in the second when he hit his 12th homer, but that was it.
Recent Hall of Fame inductee Wade Boggs threw out the first pitch to Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, then impersonated late broadcaster Harry Caray while singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch. Boggs wore black-rimmed glasses and gestured like Caray as he sang the tune. … The Reds’ Rich Aurilia went 0-for-5, ending his six-game hitting streak. … Griffey Jr. was 6-for-15 with two homers in the series. … The seven runs tied the Reds’ season high set in the ninth inning May 30 at Houston.