CINCINNATI – Mike Tauchman raised his hands over his head as he shuffled back to first base. And the cheers from the visiting Cubs fans at Great American Ball Park swelled into a chant: “Let’s go Cubbies.”
In a game that the Cubs would go on to win 15-7, the momentum swung wildly in an eighth-inning rally. The change was palpable after Tauchman’s two-run single that put the Cubs up by four runs. But the Cubs kept adding on, in an offensive performance that set them up well for a seven-game homestand against the Giants and Diamondbacks this week.
“You lose this one today, you’re not feeling good about every game being so important,” manager David Ross said after the game. “They have been for a while now.”
The Cubs split with the Reds this weekend, playing four games in three days. And they maintained their position in the second National League Wild Card spot, with their next two opponents on their heels.
The Cubs’ big offensive day Sunday, even against a piecemeal Reds staff that’s navigating a COVID-19 outbreak, both gave the back end of the bullpen a needed rest and got several individual hitters going.
“It kind of felt like a matter of time before we were gonna put a big number up,” said Ian Happ, who went 3-for-4 Sunday with four RBI.
The Cubs, who have been one of the league’s top run-scoring teams since the All-Star break, had scored only 15 runs in their last six games going into Sunday. Dating back three series, Dansby Swanson, Tauchman and Jeimer Candelario were all hitting below .160.
The team also was coming off a series with the Brewers this week, lined up with their best pitchers, Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff. The Cubs won both of those games.
“You face a really good pitching staff, you grind it out … and you feel like you don’t get as many hits as we had been getting, and sometimes I think you talked yourself into, ‘I’m not going well,’ Ross said. “And it could be just, sometimes you’ve got to give credit to the other side.”
On Sunday, Swanson and Tauchman combined for six hits, five RBI and four runs scored. Candelario homered for the second time in as many games.
“You’re going to need different guys at different times,” Happ said. “It’s pretty rare that everybody is rolling at the same time. And when we were rolling coming out of the break there, I was one of the guys who was trying to get on base and let everybody else do their jobs.”
On Sunday, Almost everyone in the Cubs lineup was rolling.
It started as a back-and-forth game. Cubs starter Jameson Taillon gave up four runs in the first two innings alone, on a trio of home runs. Then, he settled in for the next 3 ⅔ innings.
The score was tied at five apiece entering the eighth inning. Swanson led off with a single. Then, Seiya Suzuki hit a line drive into left center and Candelario was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Nick Madrigal stepped up to the plate. He’d already hit one high heater off the wall for a double earlier in the game. He got almost the same pitch and sent a two-run single up the middle.
“I looked back at the replays, and they were a lot higher than I thought they were,” he said of the pitches he hit. “We were kind of joking around with it. But I saw it good.”
Miles Mastrobuoni, getting in a game for the first time in almost two weeks, pinch hit, laid down a sacrifice bunt and reached first on Reds closer Alexis Diaz’s throwing error. Then, Tauchman hit his two-run single. The Cubs tacked on three more runs on a sacrifice fly from Cody Bellinger and a double from Swanson.
By the end of the inning, the Cubs had a seven-run lead.
“That’s kind of how our offense goes,” Tauchman said. “It starts with like a soft single here, soft single there. And then we continue to put together good at-bats, and it feels contagious.”