CINCINNATI -- Reds manager Dusty Baker got everything he could have asked for out of starter Johnny Cueto on Sunday. Unfortunately, he couldn't say the same for his bullpen.
Reds reliever Logan Ondrusek lost a three-run lead in the top of the eighth inning, and J.J. Hoover surrendered the game-winning run on a Welington Castillo double in the top of the 10th, as Cincinnati dropped the series finale to Chicago, 5-4.
"That's one that got away," Baker said. "You hate to lose a game like that."
Holding a 4-1 lead, Baker turned to Ondrusek in the eighth after Cueto went seven innings, because the usual late-inning pitchers, Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman, had both thrown in the first two games of the series and weren't available on Sunday.
The 28-year-old right-hander had no problem with the first two batters he faced, inducing a groundout and a popout. However, Starlin Castro started a two-out rally with a single right up the middle and scored on an Anthony Rizzo double down the right-field line. Alfonso Soriano came to the plate in the next at-bat and tied the game with a two-run shot to left-center field.
The situation was much the same in the top of the 10th, when Hoover retired the first two batters on five total pitches. Then he walked Scott Hairston before Castillo pulled a double down the left-field line, just out of the reach of third baseman Todd Frazier, who thought he had a play on the ball.
"They came up big in the later innings," Frazier said of the Cubs. "When they had the opportunity, they took off with it. Nothing against us or them. You can't win them all. That's just baseball."
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak and marked the first time the Reds fell to the Cubs in the last seven tries.
For seven innings, though, the Reds seemed to have everything under control, thanks in large part to Cueto.
Toeing the rubber at Great American Ball Park for the first time since April 7, Cueto was masterful for most of his seven innings of work. The 27-year-old right-hander carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning and finished his day allowing just one run on four hits and two walks while striking out two.
Sunday was Cueto's second outing since being on the disabled list with a strained right lat muscle that forced him to miss more than a month of action. He had no trouble against the Cubs, and Baker said he extended Cueto as far as he could.
"Outstanding stuff," Baker said. "That's Johnny. He was throwing like he wasn't afraid of hurting anything. He was a little tentative his last time out, but he was a lot sharper and more aggressive today than he was in New York."
Cueto finally received some help from the offense on Jay Bruce's solo homer in the bottom of the fourth inning. The home run, which came off Chicago starter Matt Garza, sparked a four-run inning that was capped by a bases-loaded double from Zack Cozart, giving Cincinnati a 4-0 lead after four.
The fifth and sixth innings were relatively quite, except for an incident in the top of the sixth, when Cueto threw a ball over the head of David DeJesus. Cueto, who wasn't available after the game, seemed to have been annoyed with DeJesus for stepping out of the batters box for an extended period of time in the first. In turn, Garza was upset with Cueto.
"Cueto should learn, you don't go after guy's heads," Garza said. "Don't wake a sleeping dog. I think that's kind of immature on his part and totally uncalled for. He's lucky that retaliation isn't in our vocabulary. You play each game like it's a new one. That's [nonsense] on his part -- just total immaturity. If he has something to say about it, he knows where to find my locker, and I'll definitely find his."
Cubs manager Dale Sveum wasn't quite as upset.
"It probably woke us up as much as anything," Sveum said. It woke our dugout up."
Chicago finally got on the board in the seventh thanks to a trio of singles before tying the game in the eighth.
Cincinnati mustered threats in the bottom of the ninth and again in the 10th after Chicago had taken the lead. Following Bruce's lineout to start the 10th, Frazier walked and Castillo was called for catcher's interference with Jack Hannahan at the plate, but Ryan Hanigan flew out and Donald Lutz grounded out to end the game.
"They got the hit and we didn't," Baker said.
The Reds dropped to 3-4 in extra-inning games this season and lost out on a chance to take the division lead for the first time since April 22. Still, Cincinnati has won 12 of its last 15 games and owns one of the best records in baseball (31-19).
"We won the series," Frazier said. "That's basically what we try to do every series. Could we have won that one? Yeah, but at the same time, things like that are going to happen."
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.