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A Reds debacle at Wrigley Field and the turning point of their season

Four games that set the stage for a stretch run.

Washington Nationals v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Emilee Chinn/Cincinnati Reds/Getty Images

There’s a word, there are words for what happened to the Cincinnati Reds during their series in Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs, but I’m still having a hard time picking the right ones.

In 4 games, the Reds surrendered 46 total runs, the most in any single 4-game series they have played since films had no sound. In 4 games, the Cubs scored 46 total runs, the most in any 4-game series they have played since the days where wind and horse were still preferred methods of travel.

The thing is, the Reds did manage to win a game within it all before the Cubs brontosaurused their way past them for the final three, and a funny thing happened between those two tide-turns: Major League Baseball’s trade deadline came, and went, with the two teams taking very divergent paths.

The Cubs took the opportunity to push chips in for this season, reaching out to the Washington Nationals for 3B Jeimer Candelario, perhaps the hottest bat moved all deadline, as well as relief help from Kansas City in the form of Jose Cuas. Perhaps more importantly, however, was their decision to pump the brakes publicly on potentially being a ‘seller,’ instead committing to keeping pending big ticket free-agents like Cody Bellinger and Marcus Stroman to continue their run.

In hindsight, it’s precisely what they’d always planned to do, so long as they’d kept themselves within shouting distance in a division that was there for the taking. They’d spent large during the hot stove season to begin things, bringing in Dansby Swanson and Jameson Taillon while doling out an extension to Reds-killer Ian Happ. They had formed their core, waited to see it develop, and then augmented it when its needs finally became clear to make a 60ish game sprint towards the best this 2023 season could become.

The Reds did not. From the first pitch after the Reds did not, it looked like the players on the Reds wished they had.

Ben Lively got hurt, the exhausted bullpen further wilted, catcher Luke Maile didn’t just pitch, he pitched twice, and the end result of the entire mid-week debacle features the Reds no longer in 1st place in the division and the Cubs, energized and augmented as they are, now just 2 games back of the club they just ransacked, their +79 run differential dwarfing that of the Reds (-19) and everyone else in the division. In failing to become the beast of the division, the Reds, in turn, helped unleash the Cubs as that new beast.

There’s still a lot to be excited about in Cincinnati for this season, and there’s still the chance they surprise us down the stretch the way they surprised the world through the season’s first 100 games, but the rookie-laden club sure could have used some help to make that happen. They’re home again, finally, with 11 of their next 14 in GABP, and perhaps that’s the fuel they need to hit the gas pedal a bit once again. Still, at the very point of the season where a series could have signaled a turning point, it sure felt like that series saw things take a turn, and the Reds are going to need to burn through their brake pads slamming on them immediately to have any chance of fixing that before it’s too late.