Cubs are getting a lot right -- but aren't plating runners from third

CHICAGO -- There aren’t many things the Cincinnati Reds do better than the Chicago Cubs, but getting a runner home from third base with less than two outs is one of them. In fact, every team in the league does it better than the Cubs, who lowered their 44 percent success rate even further after the losing to the Reds 2-1 on Tuesday.

“I have nothing to complain about,” manager Joe Maddon said after the game. “They pitched well. Sometimes the other team pitches [well]. And they did.”

It came down to this: The Cubs failed in their big attempts late in the game, while the Reds succeeded in theirs. The home team got first crack in the bottom of the seventh inning in a scoreless game. Victor Caratini was on third base with one out, but Jason Heyward lined a ball right to Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett. Javier Baez followed with a ground ball to third base, stranding Caratini.

“I hit it hard,” Heyward said more than once. “I got out.”

In the next inning, Gennett was able to get a ball up in the air to right field while Joey Votto stood on third base with one out. The sacrifice fly plated the first run of the game. And in the ninth, Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton singled to score Jesse Winker from third with one out.

The Cubs weren’t done. In the bottom of the ninth, after Kyle Schwarber and Heyward singled to put runners on first and second, Baez executed a sacrifice bunt, setting up an RBI single by Ben Zobrist. But once again a runner stood at third base with one out. This time Jon Jay struck out on four pitches and a href="http://espn.go.com/mlb/player/_/id/30115/alex-avila">Alex Avila also struck out, ending the game and leaving Heyward 90 feet away as the tying run.

“Just trying to get in there and have a good at-bat,” Jay said. “I thought that second-pitch slider was going to come down in the zone, but it stayed up. Just trying to get the job done. I didn’t do it tonight.”

These are situations that could play out in a big game in September or October. The Cubs need to score runs from third base with less than two outs -- if it’s possible -- over the final weeks of the regular season.