4/23 Cubs 4, Reds 2, 10 innings
Carlos Villanueva delivered some much-needed innings, Darwin Barney provided the go-ahead run, and Kevin Gregg filled the closer’s role for the day as the Cubs held on long enough for a 4-2, 10-inning win Tuesday night over the Reds.
“It was nice, a good win,” manager Dale Sveum said. “It wasn’t easy.”
Barney hit a tie-breaking home run with one out in the 10th off Manny Parra for his first home run of the year, only his fourth hit in 27 at-bats this season. Dave Sappelt added a RBI single for insurance.
“I wouldn’t say I needed it, I think our team needed that win,” Barney said. “I think it was good for us. Obviously, it was nice to get an RBI. No one was in scoring position — I’m probably like 0-for-1,000 in those situations. It feels good to contribute on that side of the field for sure.”
It was a weird home run because Cincinnati’s Corky Miller got in the way.
“They called catcher’s interference on the play, so when I first hit, I thought I got it pretty good and when [umpire Marvin Hudson] called interference, you never know how much it’ll take off your bat speed,” Barney said.
Wait a second — catcher’s interference on his home run?
“Maybe I would’ve rolled it over if it didn’t hit the glove,” Barney said.
Chicago led, 2-1, going into the ninth, but the Reds forced extra innings for the second straight game. Shin-Soo Choo walked to start the ninth against Villanueva, who was pulled one out later after throwing 99 pitches. Carlos Marmol entered to face Joey Votto, who was 1-for-15 in his career against the right-hander with nine strikeouts. The odds were in Marmol’s favor, but Votto lined a RBI single past Barney to tie the game.
“Those numbers don’t lie,” Sveum said of Marmol’s stats vs. Votto. “He got the ground ball. I’m like, ‘Really? You can’t hit it at somebody? You’ve got to be kidding me.’ Marmol was all right.”
Villanueva was the hero. The Cubs were coming off a 13-inning game on Monday, and needed him to go at least five. He topped that by pitching into the ninth. It was his fourth straight quality start, but he has only one win to show for it. Marmol ended up with the win, and now leads the team in the category.
“He’s been outstanding,” Sveum said of Villanueva. “To stick with a game plan is the ultimate dream for a pitching coach and a manager to be able to say, ‘Just do this and you’ll get these guys out’ and he’s able to pull it off.”
Marmol wasn’t able to do that, which is why he lost his closer’s job after one week. Gregg, released by the Dodgers on April 3, picked up his first save since 2011.
“For me, it’s about going in there and helping the ballclub now in whatever role it can be,” Gregg said. “Today was an awesome feeling. I really enjoy that. That’s a lot of weight on your shoulders when you’re out there making pitches in that situation. I love that pressure, I love what comes with it, of what comes from being able to carry home a victory for the team.”
Sixteen of the Cubs’ first 19 games have been decided by three runs or less, the first time that’s happened in franchise history since 1991. The tight games make it tough on everyone.
“You can’t dwell too much on the close games,” Villanueva said. “It’ll crush your spirits sometimes. You have to look at the positives, and the positives are that we are close. We’re not getting killed, it’s just one-, two-run games. Hopefully, this will turn it around and we start winning some ballgames now.”
— Carrie Muskat