CINCINNATI — Center fielder Ian Happ ran a long way and thought he had a chance to catch Jose Peraza’s fly ball. He stretched his glove and just missed.

“Close,” Happ said. “Centimeters.”

Peraza’s long fly ball landed for a bases-loaded double in the eighth inning on Thursday night and rallied the Cincinnati Reds to a 4-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs that avoided a series sweep.

Despite the loss, the defending World Series champions headed for Philadelphia optimistic about how the second half of the season is turning out so far. They’re 25-13 since the All-Star break — second only to the Dodgers — and lead Milwaukee by three games in the NL Central.

“Lost a tough one tonight, but we go into Philly still feeling pretty good about the way we’re throwing the ball, the way we’re swinging the bats, the way we’re catching the ball,” Jake Arrieta said.

They were on target for a sixth straight win Thursday, up 2-1 with two Reds out and nobody on in the eighth. The Reds then loaded the bases on a pair of hits and an intentional walk from Pedro Strop (3-4). Peraza was 0 for 4 off the bench this season when he pinch-hit and made solid contact on the first pitch, sending it high and deep to center.

“I was in and over a little bit,” Happ said. “He put it right in no-man’s land. I ran a pretty long way for it. I just couldn’t haul it in.”

The Cubs intentionally walked Eugenio Suarez to load the bases and bring up Peraza.

“As soon as I saw that, I said, ‘I’ve got to make good contact,'” Peraza said through a translator. “I got a good pitch to hit in the middle of the plate.”

Strop let in another run with a wild pitch.

Michael Lorenzen (8-2) fanned three of the four batters he faced. Raisel Iglesias picked up his 24th save in 25 chances.

Happ — a star at the University of Cincinnati — hit a solo homer, and Arrieta gave another solid performance , allowing only one unearned run in 5 2/3 innings. Arrieta is 5-1 in eight starts since the All-Star break.

Kris Bryant was back at third base after missing one game. He was hit on the side of the left hand by a pitch on Tuesday night and got one day off. The National League’s MVP set up Cincinnati’s first run with a fielding error, and had a hand in the Cubs’ go-ahead run. Bryant doubled in the sixth and came around on Javier Baez’s single for a 2-1 lead.

BAD CHOICE

Jon Jay singled with one out in the ninth and was caught stealing.

“He went on his own,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s thinking they’re playing behind him, he’s thinking they’re not going to throw and they did.”

ANOTHER GREAT PLAY

Baez nailed Zack Cozart at the plate with his perfect relay throw as the Reds shortstop tried to score from first base on Joey Votto’s double to left in the sixth inning, preserving the 2-1 lead.

STILL HAS GOOD HANDS

Reds third base coach Billy Hatcher made a barehanded catch of Cozart’s broken-bat foul in the first inning.

VOTTO’S STREAK

Votto has reached safely in 28 straight games, the longest active streak in the majors. His career high is 48 straight games reaching base in 2015.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cubs: SS Addison Russell’s strained right foot is improving, Maddon said, but “he still feels it a little bit when he moves in a certain direction.” He’s been on the DL since Aug. 3.

Reds: RHP Homer Bailey is expected to make his next scheduled start on Sunday against Pittsburgh. He left his start last Tuesday after three innings because of discomfort in the back of his shoulder, but hasn’t had any lingering problems.

UP NEXT

Cubs: LHP Jose Quintana opens a series in Philadelphia, making his eighth start with the Cubs. He’s 4-2 with a 3.73 ERA since moving to the Cubs from the White Sox. Jerad Eickhoff (3-7) starts for the Phillies.

Reds: Robert Stephenson (1-4) opens a series against the Pirates at Great American Ball Park, facing Ivan Nova (11-10). It’ll be Stephenson’s fifth start and 19th appearance. He’s 1-2 with a 4.43 ERA as a starter.


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