After battering Cincinnati pitchers for most of the young season, the Chicago Cubs finally felt the brunt of the Reds' frustration.
Looking to bounce back from a lopsided defeat with another strong outing by Jason Hammel, the visiting Cubs try to take this four-game set from the Reds on Sunday.
Chicago (13-5) won eight straight in the series and outscored Cincinnati 46-7 in five 2016 meetings before Saturday's 13-5 loss. Beginning with Jake Arrieta's no-hitter Thursday, the Cubs held the Reds (9-9) to three runs over the first 23 innings of the set before the hosts scored seven times in the sixth Saturday.
"They just got us," said Chicago manager Joe Maddon, whose team has yet to lose back-to-back games.
Cincinnati broke out for 15 hits, four of which left the park. Eugenio Suarez and Adam Duvall each hit three-run homers in the sixth.
"That was a little bit of a relief there,'' Duvall said. ''You try not to put too much pressure on yourself to score runs.''
Chicago entered Saturday with a major league-low 2.08 ERA, but John Lackey gave up six runs in 5 2/3 innings. A bullpen that yielded eight earned runs in 37 2/3 innings of the first 17 games was reached for seven in 2 1/3.
Hammel (2-0, 1.00 ERA), though, could be the one to help the Cubs get back on track after allowing two total runs and going six innings in each of his three starts. He didn't give up a run despite four walks and four hits in an 8-1 win over Cincinnati on April 14.
The right-hander followed by allowing a run and striking out six without a walk in Tuesday's 2-1 victory at St. Louis. He was also provided the Cubs' offense with a two-run single.
Suarez was 4 for 8 against Hammel before going hitless in three at-bats this month.
Alfredo Simon (0-1, 12.15) felt the wrath of the Cubs' offense April 13 when he allowed five runs and four hits while walking three over two-thirds of an inning in a 9-2 loss at Wrigley Field - the shortest start of his career. Two days later, the burly right-hander was used out of the bullpen and gave up four runs and two homers in one inning of a 14-3 loss at St. Louis.
Simon was then scratched from his scheduled start Tuesday because of biceps tendinitis, a problem - unbeknownst to Cincinnati coaches - that had bothered him since his first start.
"You (think) you're going to figure it out, and it's going to go away and you'll do whatever you can in a covert fashion to get yourself in a position to be able to pitch without making it a big deal," Reds manager Bryan Price told MLB's official website. There wasn't any point in time where any of us understood he was having some issues with his arm."
Simon appears ready to take the ball after receiving an anti-inflammatory injection in his shoulder.
"If he's healthy, I think he's capable of withstanding an early season workload," Price said, "which typically would be five to six innings and somewhere in the neighborhood of 90-100 pitches."
Dexter Fowler, who doubled off Simon last week, is 10 for 25 with six doubles and four RBIs while the Cubs are 4-2 on a seven-game trip. He's 9 for 22 with five RBIs in the last five against Cincinnati.