CINCINNATI – One awful pitch ended Scott Feldman’s streak of solid starts and kept the Cubs in their downward spiral.
Feldman hung a curve to Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan with two on and two outs and the pitcher on deck in the fourth inning. Hanigan connected for a three-run shot that put Cincinnati ahead to stay in a 7-4 victory on Friday night.
Joey Votto extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a solo homer, and Brandon Phillips added a two-run shot. But it was Hanigan’s second homer that made the difference in Cincinnati’s fourth straight win.
With starter Bronson Arroyo on deck in the fourth inning, Feldman (4-4) fell behind 3-0 in the count to Hanigan, then decided to try to get him out. Hanigan worked the count full before connecting for a 5-3 lead.
Surprised he even got the chance?
“A little bit,” Hanigan said. “At that point in the game, I didn’t think a pinch-hitter was coming in. They went at me and I got a pitch to handle. That was a big turn in the game, a five-run inning.”
The game-turning pitch was a hanging curve.
“That was a really bonehead pitch,” Feldman said. “With the pitcher on deck, I threw the one pitch he can hit for a three-run homer. That one stings a little bit.”
The big inning kept the Reds on the upswing. They’ve won 12 of their past 15 games, surging to a season-high 12 games over .500. At 30-18, they’re three wins ahead of their pace last season, when they won 97 games and the NL Central.
They’ve dominated the Cubs, winning 15 of their past 17. The Reds are 18-5 overall against the Cubs in the past two seasons.
The Cubs are last in the NL Central, having lost a season-high five straight.
The Cubs (18-29) slid a season-low 11 games under .500.
Votto and Hanigan homered in the fourth inning off Feldman, who had only one bad inning.
Feldman gave up five runs in the fourth, the same number he’d allowed in his past five starts combined.
“He was one pitch away from having a good outing – 3-2 hanging curveball with the pitcher coming up,” manager Dale Sveum said. “That was a bad mistake at the wrong time in a situation where he didn’t even have to throw a strike.”
Phillips hit a two-run shot in the eighth off Hector Rondon.
Arroyo (5-4) gave up three runs and six hits in six innings, including Feldman’s first career homer. Jonathan Broxton allowed Luis Valbuena’s RBI single in the eighth.
Aroldis Chapman pitched the ninth for his 11th save in 13 chances. After blowing a pair of save opportunities, the left-hander has converted his past three. He gave up a single and a walk and fanned three.
The Reds had their third sellout crowd of the season, and the last two games of the series will draw capacity crowds as well.
The Cubs stacked their lineup with six position players and a starting pitcher who bat left-handed, trying a different approach against Arroyo. It worked, but not well enough.
“I didn’t feel great the whole game, to be honest,” Arroyo said. “They ran seven left-handers against me. They had guys from the left side that I hadn’t seen a lot.
“It was a grind for me, to be honest.”
Arroyo had trouble keeping his pitches down at the outset. Darwin Barney had a sacrifice fly in the second inning, and Feldman followed with his first career homer, a two-run shot for a 3-0 lead. Cubs pitchers have driven in 15 runs this season, most in the majors.
The three-run inning ended Arroyo’s streak of 15 1-3 scoreless innings, his best of the season. The right-hander has won his past three starts.
Feldman had his streak of five impressive starts fall apart in the fourth.
Votto led off with his eighth homer, extending his hitting streak to 12 games, the longest by a Reds player this season. He leads the NL with a .361 batting average.
And that was just the start. Phillips followed with a single, stretching his hitting streak to a season-best 11 games, and eventually scored on Xavier Paul’s single. Hanigan’s three-run homer – his second – made it 5-3.
The five runs matched the most allowed by the Cubs in an inning this season. They were the most earned runs allowed by Feldman in a game this season.
NOTES: LH Travis Wood, obtained by Chicago in the trade for Marshall in December 2011, makes his fourth career start against the Reds on Saturday. He’s 0-1 with a 4.42 ERA against the Reds. ... The Reds have homered in each of their past nine games, their longest such streak since 2010. ... The Reds placed LH Sean Marshall on the 15-day DL before the game, the second time he’s been sidelined by a sore pitching shoulder this season. LH Manny Parra was activated off the DL to take his place.