IN THE FLICK of a wrist and a blink of an eye, what appeared to be a memorable night for the Cincinnati Reds turned into a Nighmare on Addison Street.
From a near no-hitter to a bullpen meltdown, the Reds lost a heart-shattering 5-3 game to the Chicago Cubs.
For 6 2/3 innings, for 107 pitches, Reds pitcher Brandon Finnegan had his left hand tightly gripped on the carotid arteries of the Cubs.
He had a no-hitter. He had a 3-0 lead. And he was cruising a clear path toward pitching immortality in only his 22nd major league start.
THEN WITH TWO outs and nobody on base in the seventh inning, former Reds catcher David Ross ruined it on the 108th pitch, an 0-and-2 pitch. Ross reached out and blooped one just over shortstop and when he ball landed softly on the Wrigley Field grass it was all over.
When Finnegan walked the next hitter, pinch-hitter Matt Szcur on four pitches, not only was his no-hitter gone, but his night was done, too.
And before the night was over his win drifted off into the chill night, too.
As soon as Finnegan left, a 3-0 cruise through placid waters became rough seas.
AFTER TWO outs and nobody on, the Cubs scored two runs. Caleb Cotham replaced Finnegan and he walked Dexter Fowler to fill the bases.
Tony Cingrani replaced Cotham and on another 0-and-2 pitch Jason Heyward drilled a two-run single to right field to cut the lead to 3-2. The Cubs had the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on first. But Cingrani retired Kris Bryant on a grounder to short.
Then came the fatal eighth.
WITH ONE OUT, Cingrani walked Ben Zobrist and hit Jorge Soler with a pitch. Manager Bryan Price replaced Cingrani with Jumbo Diaz to face Cubs shorstop Addison Russell.
Russell turned on Diaz’s first pitch and drove it into the center field bleachers, a three-run home run to give the Cubs a 5-3 lead.
That punctured everything the Reds had. Closer Hector Rondon struck out the side in the ninth — Jay Bruce, Adam Duvall and pinch-hitter Scott Schebler.
And 41,000 fans left Wrigley singing the Cubs anthem, ‘Go Cubs Go,’
Amazingly, the Cubs had only three hits, all three in the eighth inning. But Reds pitchers helped out by walking seven and hitting a batter.
It was the kind of defeat that can have a lingering and debilitating effect on a young team that arrived in Chicago on a high, five wins in its first six games. The Cubs, now in first place by themselves, are 6-and-1.
THE REDS BUILT their 3-0 lead early. Zack Cozart, who has not swung a missed a pitch this year, led the game with a single off Cubs starter Jon Lester. But he suffered a tight right quadriceps running to first base and later left the game.
Joey Votto and Cozart scored on a ground ball by Brandon Phillkps. Billy Hamilton stunned Lester in the third by dropping a home into the basket atop the left center wall to make it 2-0. It became 3-0 in the fourth on a single by Finnegan.
From there, the Reds bats went silent and the Cubs arose to spoil it all.