CINCINNATI — The Reds saw this ending way too many times all season.
One strike away from finishing off the Cubs, Raisel Iglesias gave up a go-ahead double by Matt Szczur and a homer by Miguel Montero as Chicago rallied for a 7-4 victory on Sunday, ending Cincinnati’s season in a fitting way.
The bullpen has let them down right from the start.
After Iglesias (3-2) retired the first two batters in the ninth, Chicago pulled ahead with a walk, a single and Szczur’s double. Montero’s homer was a major league record 103rd allowed by Reds relievers.
The Reds blew 25 of their 53 save opportunities during the season, trying a variety of players in the closer’s role without much success.
“That’s the lessons of the position,” manager Bryan Price said. “You don’t put a young guy in that situation without expecting a challenge.”
The Reds finished 68-94. Combined with last year’s 98 losses, it’s the first time they’ve had back-to-back 90-loss seasons since 1933-34. Attendance at Great American Ball Park was 1,894,085, a significant drop from the 2.4 million they drew last season while hosting the All-Star Game.
“What matters is how we utilize 2016 to be better in 2017 and 2018 and 2019 and get more fans in the stands,” Price said.
The Cubs dominated the Reds all season, winning 15 of their 19 games. The comeback on Sunday gave them 103 wins overall for the season.
Chicago headed back to Wrigley Field for its first playoff game on Friday against the winner of the NL wild-card game.
The Cubs led the majors with their most victories since 1910. That’s no longer the reference point, however. The postseason focus is 1908, the last time they won a World Series.
The final series at Great American Ball Park was more about personal milestones. Jon Lester failed to get his 20th win on Saturday, and Kyle Hendricks finished as the ERA leader at 2.13 on Sunday despite a ragged performance. He gave up four runs and six hits in five innings, forcing in one run with a bases-loaded walk.
Hendricks hadn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of his last 22 starts. He came into the game with a 1.99 ERA, hoping to become the third Cubs pitcher in the last 96 years to finish below 2.00.
The meaningful statistic now: Hendricks’ 1.32 ERA at Wrigley Field this season, the best home ERA in the majors.
Justin Grimm (2-1) retired the one batter he faced for the win. Carl Edwards Jr. got his second save.
Cincinnati’s Joey Votto singled in four at-bats, giving him a .408 average since the All-Star break. He’s the first player in the majors to bat .400 after the break since Ichiro Suzuki hit .429 in 2004.
The Reds showed a video from David Ross’ days in Cincinnati on the videoboard in the middle of the first inning, honoring the Cubs catcher who will retire after the season. Fans gave him a standing ovation, and he waved his cap from the dugout railing.
The last two Cubs pitchers with ERAs below 2.00 were Grover Cleveland Alexander (1.91) in 1920 and Jake Arrieta (1.77) last year. … The Cubs hit 42 homers against the Reds this season, the most by any team against Cincinnati. … Reds pitchers allowed 258 homers overall, shattering the previous mark. The previous NL record was 239 by the 2001 Rockies.
Cubs: Jorge Soler was in left field after missing a week with a sore right side. He went 0 for 2 with a walk.
Reds: 2B Brandon Phillips missed the last five games with a bruised left hand.
Cubs: Await the winner of Wednesday’s NL wild-card playoff game hosted by the Mets against San Francisco. Manager Joe Maddon hasn’t announced his pitching rotation for the playoffs, although it’s likely to start with Lester. Chicago will work out on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Reds: Price got a one-year contract extension on Friday, answering the biggest offseason question.
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