When Reds pitcher Luke Weaver walked 3 straight batters in the third inning Thursday at Wrigley Field, his manager David Bell decided to channel the late Earl Weaver.
Bell stormed out of the visitors dugout and went mildly ballistic while getting tossed by plate umpire Derek Thomas. Bell didn’t throw his cap or stomp on it, but he did rip it off his head a couple of times and utilized plenty of finger-pointing.
The outburst wasn’t quite at the level of the legendary Orioles manager, but no one gets real mad these days now that they can use replay to challenge close calls.
It seemed like Bell was more upset with how this series has gone than anything. Cincinnati left town with three straight losses after dropping a 5-3 decision Thursday at Wrigley Field. The Cubs (56-53) have now gone 13-3 over their last 16 games.
There weren’t any egregious calls during the three walks. Maybe a 3-2 checked swing by Dansby Swanson could have gone either way. But Bell acknowledged after the game it wasn’t about the strike zone.
“I know Luke got frustrated, which happens when you’re in the moment and you’re competing,” Bell told reporters. “I wanted to make sure it got left at that and wasn’t escalated. I saw the umpire jump out from behind the plate and that’s when I went out there. It wasn’t about the balls and strikes.”
After the Cubs scored 36 runs and hit 12 homers the previous two days, the Reds bullpen should have been taxed. But this game was the lowest-scoring of the four, a mild surprise since weather conditions were roughly the same.
Cubs starter Jameson Taillon survived 5 innings with 2 runs allowed, which is a decent result the way the ball has carried this week, and recorded a win for the fifth straight start. During the long third inning, he started stretching in the dugout, then went to the batting cage to throw in an attempt to stay loose.
“Right when (Bell) got tossed; I kept telling (pitching coach) Tommy (Hottovy) I didn’t need to throw, then once (Bell) started doing his thing, I went into the cage and started throwing,” Taillon said. “That was my sign. I can’t keep sitting here.
“I’ve seen him get tossed a good bit because of my days with Pittsburgh. We’ve had some blood. But I saw his pitcher get pretty emotional out there and he was just backing up his player, which I respect.”
Taillon gave up a home run to rookie sensation Elly De La Cruz on the first pitch of the game, then left the mound when Spencer Steer led off the sixth with a double.
The Cubs tied it up in the first on doubles by Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ. In the third, the 3-run rally started when Hoerner reached on a two-out dropped third strike. Happ walked, Bellinger singled to score Hoerner, then came the three straight walks, to Swanson, Christopher Morel and Candelario to force in 2 runs.
“We just made something out of nothing, which is awesome,” Taillon said. “We were grinding their guy down, just like they were doing to me.”
The dropped third strike happened on a pitch in the dirt, but Reds catcher Luke Maile, who pitched two innings of mop-up action during the Cubs blowouts, blamed himself.
“It was a great pitch that got by me,” Maile said. “It’s about the worst feeling you could ever have. It’s the type of thing you want to crawl into a hole. … I thought we had the world’s smallest strike zone for a minute. Just a combination of him (Weaver) making really quality pitches and nothing going right for him.”
Steer homered in the eighth off Julian Merryweather to make it 4-3, but the Cubs added an insurance run on a Swanson double, Candelario single and Yan Gomes sacrifice fly.
Then Adbert Alzolay filled his new role perfectly. He recorded a four-out save, his 13th of the season, and kept the crowd fired up during a perfect ninth inning.
“I really like the intensity, I really like the big moment and I feel like I feed off that,” said Alzolay, a former starter. “Cubs fans love meaningful baseball at the end of the year. That energy is huge for us. I feel that anytime we get in a big situation out there and Wrigley Field is standing up, everyone gets a chill.”