The Chicago Cubs' three-game win streak is over. So is the Cincinnati Reds' four-game losing streak.
The two National League Central rivals were heading in vastly different directions entering Wednesday's 12-7 Reds victory at Great American Ball Park. That's on hold for at least one day.
Mike Moustakas broke open the scoring with a two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning as the infielder returned following an appeal to Major League Baseball after multiple negative tests for COVID-19 in recent days, according to The Athletic's C. Trent Rosecrans and Ken Rosenthal. Moustakas and Nick Senzel had been unavailable since Sunday, draining Cincinnati of some much-needed power in the middle of the order.
It's the second homer in three games for Moustakas after he agreed to a four-year, $64 million deal with the Reds (2-4) last winter.
Sonny Gray, RHP, Cincinnati Reds: 6.2 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 K
Nicholas Castellanos, RF, Cincinnati Reds: 3 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 1 Grand Slam
Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs: 5 AB, 1 H, 2, RBI, 2 K
Nico Hoerner, 2B, Chicago Cubs, 4 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 2 RBI, 2 K
Gray Outduels Hendricks
Kyle Hendricks and Sonny Gray put on two of the most impressive performances on Opening Day. Each struck out nine with Gray going six innings against the Detroit Tigers and Hendricks tossing a complete game against the Milwaukee Brewers.
That made their Wednesday matchup one of the most exciting of the early season. It didn't stay that way for long.
Gray made Hendricks irrelevant with 5.2 innings of no-hit ball en route to 11 strikeouts over 6.2 innings total. Hendricks lasted just 4.1 innings while giving up six runs on seven hits with just three punchouts.
It was the pinpoint control of the 30-year-old Reds ace that made him virtually untouchable in helping snap his club's losing streak. His fastball dotted the corners of the strike zone with ease, fooling batters both inside and outside, while sitting at just 93 mph, per Statcast.
Cubs batters only put 11 of Gray's 92 pitches in play while 24 called strikes, and 12 caused Chicago (4-2) to whiff.
Compare that to just 15 of Hendricks' 85 pitches called strikes while 16 were put in play. The Cubs ace is usually known for his accuracy, but that was nowhere to be found Wednesday. Without overpowering velocity—his fastball averaged 86.3 mph—the Reds were able to knock Hendricks out of the game.
Wednesday's lineup in Cincinnati looked much more like what the Reds expected to see every day this season—and with better than expected results.
The extended layoffs for both Moustakas and Senzel certainly didn't cause any problems at the plate. Senzel homered as part of a seven-run fifth inning to give the Reds a 9-0 lead, but it was the way in which Cincy was able to keep the order moving during the frame that showed the team's true potential.
No. 9 hitter Freddy Galvis led off the inning with a single, Shogo Akiyama followed up with a ground-rule double and Joey Votto walked to load the bases. After Eugenio Suarez singled to plate two runs, the Cubs replaced Hendricks with Rex Brothers, who instantly walked Moustakas to reload the bases.
Nicholas Castellanos hit a grand slam the following at-bat, breaking the game wide open.
It was textbook baseball in 2020. Altogether the Reds forced the Cubs to throw 43 pitches in the fifth inning. Cincinnati took advantage of a shaky starter and a reliever who looked uncomfortable and forced them to locate pitches. Neither could, and it led to a game-changing run.
Overall the Reds combined for 10 hits, drew eight walks and scored their most runs in a game since 2017.
Even on days when the team doesn't have Gray on the mound, plate discipline like Cincinnati showed Wednesday will go a long way in frustrating opponents.
The two clubs will wrap up their four-game series at 6:10 p.m. ET as Yu Darvish takes the mound for the Cubs against Luis Castillo of the Reds.
Darvish is looking to bounce back after allowing three runs on six hits over four innings in his season debut against the Brewers, giving the Cubs their only other loss on the season to date. Castillo, meanwhile, was masterful in his 2020 debut, striking out 11 batters in six innings against the Tigers.