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A wild night for Seiya Suzuki and the Cubs ends in a much-needed win over the Reds

CHICAGO (AP) — One of the best things about baseball is that if you do something bad, you just have to be patient to get a shot at redemption.

Chicago Cubs outfielder Seiya Suzuki didn’t even have to wait long for his shot on Saturday night. He may, however, be thinking about it for a long time.

In one wild second inning, Suzuki committed an ugly error that opened the door for four Cincinnati Reds runs in the top of the frame, then he got the four runs right back in the bottom of the inning by belting his first career grand slam.

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Later, Dansby Swanson hit a tie-breaking two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, and the Cubs won for just the second time in their last 10 games, 7-5 over the Reds, after waiting through a long rain delay for first pitch at Wrigley Field.

Following the very long — and wet — night, Suzuki said his grand slam was of little consolation after his mistake in right field.

“As a player, you’ve got to make those routine plays,” Suzuki said through a translator. “I’m going to try to practice and get out there during BP. Just make sure I make those routine plays moving forward.”

For the Cubs, the bottom line is that they got a much-needed win, pulling back to a game under .500 at 29-30. After the Reds won Friday afternoon and the Cubs won late Saturday night, the teams play the rubber match of their three-game series at Wrigley Field on Sunday afternoon.

Long delay, wild inning

The start of Saturday’s game was delayed for almost 3 1/2 hours because of rain, and the showers continued with varying intensity through the first few innings.

Then, in the top of the second, disaster struck for a Cubs team badly in need of some good vibes.

Cincinnati had the bases loaded with two outs off Cubs starter Justin Steele when Luke Maile hit a lazy flyball to right. But the ball went off the side of Suzuki’s glove.

All three runners scored, and Stuart Fairchild followed with an RBI single that lifted the Reds to a 4-0 lead. What was left of the announced crowd of 36,430 then cheered sarcastically when Suzuki caught Elly De La Cruz’s flyball for the final out of the inning.

But redemption was right around the corner for Suzuki.

Chicago loaded the bases in the bottom of the second on three walks by Hunter Greene. After Mike Tauchman struck out swinging for the second out, Suzuki sent a charge through the waterlogged crowd when he drove a full-count fastball deep to left.

“You’re going to be down after that happens, and he went and he had a great at-bat in a huge spot,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said. “And with one swing of the bat, the game’s back to even.

“So credit to Seiya for staying in it, because you feel awful when you do that.”

Suzuki’s sixth homer traveled 400 feet, with a 106.9-mph exit velocity. The Japanese slugger also hit his first triple of the season in the first on a drive to center with a 103.1-mph exit velocity.

But he struck out swinging in the fourth and struck out again in the seventh with a runner on second and no outs.

“To be honest with you, when I reflect on my at-bats today, I can’t really tell you how I’m feeling,” Suzuki said. “It was more of that play in the second inning, that play in right field, that kind of drove my emotions throughout the whole (game).

“It was a play that I should have made, and it did have some toll on the team.”

The Cubs are hoping to rebound this month after they hit .217 and averaged 3.5 runs per game while going 10-18 in May. A resurgent Suzuki could go a long way to helping the issues with the team’s lineup.

The 29-year-old hit .285 with 20 homers and 74 RBI last year in his second season in the majors. He got off to a solid start this year, batting .305 with three homers and 13 RBI in his first 15 games, but he strained his right oblique during a 3-2 win at Seattle on April 14.

Suzuki hasn’t been the same since he returned May 11, batting .219 (16-for-73) in his last 18 games going into Saturday night.

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“He has the ability to change the game at any point,” Swanson, the Cubs shortstop, said. “He’s so talented and so gifted. You know a lot of people could kind of hang their heads after something like that would happen, but he obviously came right back and responded in the way that we all know that he’s capable of.”

Coming through late

Nico Hoerner walked twice, scored two runs and drove in another Saturday night for the Cubs.

Mark Leiter Jr. (2-3) got three outs for the win, and Héctor Neris handled the ninth for his seventh save in nine opportunities.

“It’s been a little bit of a tough stretch, and just to be able to fight and compete (Saturday), regardless of the conditions and just being here all day and all the different kind of obstacles, we really just stepped up today,” Swanson said.

Spencer Steer had three hits for Cincinnati, which had won five of seven.

The game was tied at 5-5 when Hoerner walked with one out in the eighth against Lucas Sims (1-2). Swanson followed with a drive to left-center on an 0-2 fastball for his fifth homer.

“I think we were all thrilled for Dansby,” Counsell said. “You know he needed it, and to have the hit that wins the game, that’s a big deal.”

Chicago went in front on Hoerner’s RBI single in the third, but Cincinnati tied it at 5-5 when Jeimer Candelario singled home Fairchild in the fourth.

Greene allowed three hits in six innings, but he issued five walks and hit two batters. The right-hander went 3-0 with a 1.95 ERA in his previous six starts.

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“Early on he had the inning where he lost command a little bit, and Suzuki got him. Missed a spot,” Reds manager David Bell said. “And other than that, he really pitched well. … An experience like tonight, he couldn’t have handled it any better in my opinion.”

Steele permitted one earned run and seven hits in five innings. The left-hander struck out five and walked four.

Trainer’s room

Cubs: RHP Julian Merryweather (rib stress fracture) won’t be back until some point after the All-Star break, according to Counsell. … RHP Yency Almonte (shoulder strain) is ramping up the intensity of his throwing program. “But he’s still in a phase of just playing catch, throwing program in the outfield right now,” Counsell said. “Not on a mound yet, so a ways to go.”

Up next

Reds left-hander Nick Lodolo (4-2, 3.12 ERA) and Cubs right-hander Ben Brown (1-1, 2.72 ERA) start the series finale on Sunday afternoon. Lodolo pitched 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball in a 3-1 victory over St. Louis on Monday. Brown is coming off a dominant performance in Milwaukee, striking out 10 while pitching seven no-hit innings in Chicago’s 6-3 win on Tuesday.

First pitch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. at Wrigley Field.

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