CINCINNATI -- The Chicago Cubs tried to dispel any suggestions late Tuesday night that their current struggles are related to the departure of ace Jeff Samardzija.
But after surging to a five-run lead behind three home runs and the crafty pitching of left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, the Cubs are deep into one of their most severe regressions of a gradually disappointing season.
Wada's effort went for naught as the offense went silent and the bullpen collapsed to allow the Reds to rally for a 6-5 victory to complete a doubleheader sweep that extended the Cubs' losing streak to five games -- all occurring after starters Samardzija and Jason Hammel were dealt Friday to the Athletics.
"It's tough," Anthony Rizzo said after hitting his 19th home run to highlight a three-hit performance. "This loss is not easy to swallow for all of us. A lot of guys swung the bat well, but not coming up with a W is tough."
Left-hander Travis Wood, who suffered a 4-2 loss in the first game, said between games that perhaps one of the newcomers could provide a spark to help the Cubs (38-51) get out of their funk.
Wada, 33, pitched five innings of five-hit ball in his major league debut. But it wasn't enough, and now more reinforcements will arrive in the next two games.
With second baseman Darwin Barney headed to the paternity list with the anticipated birth of his third daughter, infielder Arismendy Alcantara will be promoted from Triple-A Iowa, for which he's batting .307 with 25 doubles, 11 triples, 10 home runs, 41 RBIs and 21 stolen bases.
The Cubs are in a stretch of three games with three starters who had only one major league start combined before Wada's effort. Dallas Beeler, who pitched six innings of one-run ball against the Nationals on June 28, will start Wednesday night and Kyle Hendricks will make his major league debut in Thursday's series finale.
Meanwhile, the Cubs will try to recover from a tough loss in which they didn't score after the third and went hitless in 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position. The bullpen allowed four runs in the final four innings, capped when Billy Hamilton's broken bat single scored Mike Leake with the winning run off closer Hector Rondon, who was pitching for the first time since July 1.
And they will try to advance without Samardzija, Hammel and possibly more teammates before the July 31 trade deadline.
"I've been through it," said former Marlins outfielder Chris Coghlan, who hit home runs in each game. "I've seen it. It always stinks. But we can't control that stuff. I learned it in Miami. I took it very hard in my first year when I saw that in 2010.
"But that's what happens when you don't win. It's a business. You leave business for those guys upstairs who are in control. And all you can control is what you do, and that's how you grow as a professional."
Coghlan became the first Cub to hit a home run in both games of a doubleheader since Alfonso Soriano against the Cardinals at St. Louis on Sept. 15, 2007. The last Cub to accomplish the feat at Cincinnati was Ron Santo on June 20, 1965.
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