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CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Cubs had been scoring in bunches lately.

Then Sonny Gray took the mound for the Cincinnati Reds.

The Cubs were shut down by Gray and two relievers Tuesday night, falling 4-2 to the Reds in a loss that hurt their playoff positioning.

Chicago had won five in a row, outscoring its opponents 59-18 during the stretch. But it managed just two runs against Gray (11-7) before Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias closed out the five-hitter for Cincinnati.

”Sonny just keeps pitching great,” Reds manager David Bell said. ”He went deep into the game against a great lineup. It doesn’t really matter who he’s facing right now, the best teams, the best lineups. He’s pitching with that much confidence.”

The Cubs (82-69) dropped into a tie for the second NL wild card with Milwaukee, which held off San Diego for a 3-1 victory. They also missed out on an opportunity to gain ground on NL Central-leading St. Louis, which lost 6-2 to Washington.

Rookie Aristides Aquino hit his 16th homer for Cincinnati (71-81), and Joey Votto and Eugenio Suarez each drove in a run.

Gray struck out nine in 6 2/3 innings. The All-Star right-hander improved to 5-1 with a 1.46 ERA in his last nine outings

”I felt pretty good out there today after I kind of got going,” Gray said.

Yu Darvish (6-7) struck out 13 in seven innings for Chicago, but was hurt by a slow start. Kyle Schwarber had three hits and two RBIs.

Darvish fanned 14 in his previous start, a 4-1 win at San Diego on Thursday. He has 217 Ks in 170 1/3 innings on the year.

”Yu is on quite a run right now, but unfortunately their guy is really good, too,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. ”In spite of us swinging the bats well lately, Sonny did a nice job also.”

Gray departed with runners on the corners, and Lorenzen struck out Nicholas Castellanos to end the inning.

Lorenzen then worked the eighth before Iglesias pitched a perfect ninth for his 32nd save.

Darvish struck out the side in the first, but Cincinnati scored three times. Votto doubled home Josh VanMeter before Aquino hit a drive to left-center for his first homer since Sept. 2.

Aquino, who was recalled from the minors on Aug. 1, has six homers against Chicago in six games.

”I made a good pitch to Votto, but he’s a great hitter,” Darvish said. ”For Aquino, that’s my mistake. I should throw a breaking ball.”

Gray helped himself in the fifth, reaching on a one-out single and eventually coming around on Suarez’s base hit to give Cincinnati a 4-2 lead.

All-Star catcher Willson Contreras started at first base in Chicago’s second game since Anthony Rizzo sprained his right ankle during Sunday’s 16-6 victory over Pittsburgh. Rizzo is wearing a walking boot for five to seven days, casting doubt on the slugger’s availability for the rest of the season.

Schwarber drove in Castellanos with a double in the first and a triple in the third.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Reds: Votto was back in the starting lineup after missing two games with an illness. … SS Jose Iglesias (sore back) was out of the lineup for a fourth straight game, but pinch-hit in the ninth and struck out. … INF Freddy Galvis missed his third straight game with left knee soreness. Bell said Galvis could return this weekend.

Cubs: RHP Craig Kimbrell (elbow inflammation) threw 16 pitches in a simulated inning. Maddon said the closer’s session ”was very encouraging,” but cautioned the team needed to wait until Wednesday to evaluate Kimbrel’s response before determining a next step. … All-Star SS Javier Baez (hairline fracture in left thumb) will visit with doctors this week in advance of resuming training activity. Baez expected to miss the rest of the regular season. … RHP Brandon Kintzler (right oblique strain) could resume throwing in the next few days, pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said.

UP NEXT

Reds right-hander Tyler Mahle (2-11, 5.11 ERA) faces Cubs left-hander Jon Lester (13-10, 4.59 ERA) in the series finale Wednesday night. Lester has allowed 15 runs (12 earned) over 10 1/3 innings in his last two starts.

After blowing the Pittsburgh Pirates out of the water, the bats are hot and the Chicago Cubs are looking to pave the road to the postseason.
On Monday night, the second to last Monday of the 2019 regular season, the Chicago Cubs reigned victorious over their division rival, Cincinnati Reds, winning by a score of 8-2. This stellar win, all thanks to the bullpen, kept the Cubs winning streak going marking their fifth straight win. The team plays two more games against the Reds at Wrigley, which shouldn’t be too challenging.

However, the Reds have Sonny Grey on the mound Tuesday night who will be going up against righty Yu Darvish. Grey is 10-7 with a 2.80 ERA while Darvish is 6-6 with a 3.97 ERA. It is vital that the bats come alive for the Cubs tonight, especially that of Willson Contreras.

Contreras is a valuable bat for the Cubs, slashing .282/.369/.552 this season. The Cubs really felt the absence of Contreras when he was out with a hamstring injury from Aug. 4 to Sept. 3. During that stretch, the Cubs only won 14 of their last 26. Without Contreras, the Cubs offense was too inconsistent.

Contreras’ return stabilized the Cubs’ offense which was clear in last Friday’s victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cubs absolutely crushed the Pirates in all three games of the series.

On Friday, the Cubs beat the Pirates 17-8, much in part thanks to Contreras. In that game, Contrares went 3-for-4 hitting two solo home runs, and scored on a walk. These two homers brought the 27-year-old to a career high of 23 home runs on the season.

Last Saturday the Cubs crushed the Pirates once again, but this time by a score of 14-1. To end the series on Sunday, the Cubs swept the Pirates this time winning by a score of 16-6. The ball club gained three wins and racked up a remarkable 47 runs. The Cubs fell just one run short the club record for the most runs scored in a single three-game series, which remains at 48 runs.

The Cubs scored 47 runs without two of their key offensive guys on the field, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez both due to injuries.Unfortunately, Anthony Rizzo left Sunday’s game with an injury, which put a damper on the Cubs’ offense. Yet they finished Sunday’s contest with 16 runs anyway.

With 12 games left in the remainder of the regular season, it’s crunch time. Thankfully, the remainder of their schedule isn’t too difficult, except for seven of the games left to be played against the St. Louis Cardinals. If the bats stay hot and bats like Contreras remain prevalent, the Cubs will find themselves in the midst of a postseason run.

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