CINCINNATI — To understand manager David Ross’ reaction to Reds reliever Hunter Strickland hitting Cubs slugger Patrick Wisdom with a fastball in the ninth inning, it’s necessary to go back an inning.
Tensions ran high in the late innings of a game the Cubs would lose 4-3 on Wednesday to the Reds.
In the eighth inning, Cubs reliever Rowan Wick walked Reds star Joey Votto on four pitches. The first was a fastball up and in, followed two balls in the dirt and one fastball wide.
Votto tossed his bat toward the dugout on his way to first base. After the game, Wick said he didn’t remember exactly what words were exchanged, but he said something along the lines of, ‘‘Nice bat flip.’’
‘‘I understand he’s been in the league a long time, [so] he can do whatever he wants when he walks,’’ Wick said. ‘‘On my side, I was not happy at all with the pitches that I threw. I let the emotions get the best of me. I got a little frustrated. But I feel like he kind of blew it out of the water more than it needed to be.’’
Votto shouted back, continuing for a while after he got to first base. Wick stared toward the plate.
‘‘He had something to say, and I answered,’’ Votto told Cincinnati reporters after the game. ‘‘That’s how ball is sometimes. You’re competitive, and clearly he was competing and locked in on performing well, and I’m pulling on the opposite end of the same rope. If someone says something to me, sometimes I don’t answer. But I wasn’t in the mood to keep my mouth shut.’’
Said Wick: ‘‘I heard him. But I wasn’t going to turn around and start anything. I was just focussed on getting the next guy.’’
Wick said he and Votto never had spoken before.
‘‘I don’t even know if he knows we’re both Canadian,’’ Wick said.
That incident was in the back of Ross’ mind when Strickland drilled Wisdom with one out in the ninth and the Reds leading by two runs.
‘‘That’s been pretty commonplace when there’s a lot of jawing going on that the umpires get together and see if there’s anything intentional, and they usually err on the side of warnings,’’ Ross said.
He took issue with the umpires not meeting to discuss whether it was intentional, especially in an already-tense game.
‘‘I don’t know if it was or not,’’ Ross said. ‘‘But them not getting together — two [of the umpires] wanting to get together and another guy not wanting to get together — was the frustrating part for me.’’
Ross came out of the dugout and, after a few words with plate umpire Dan Merzel, was ejected. He kept on making his point until bench coach Andy Green came out to get him.
‘‘I don’t know if it’s intentional or not,’’ Wick said. ‘‘But it definitely maybe appeared that way. I don’t know. We’ll see what happens [Thursday].’’
In the midst of all the hubbub, the Cubs came up just short of making a comeback.
After walking Votto in the eighth, Wick induced a ground ball from Mike Moustakas and struck out Nick Senzel to get out of the inning.
In the ninth, after Wisdom took his base with one out, Alfonso Rivas drew a walk.
Willson Contreras and Nico Hoerner, in their first games back from injury, then pinch-hit. Contreras hit a long fly ball to right-center field that Senzel made a leaping catch on for the second out. Hoerner then hit an RBI single, but Christopher Morel struck out to end the inning.
‘‘The at-bats in the ninth were really good,’’ Ross said. ‘‘Guys continued to fight. The bullpen did a nice job again. . . . We just came up short tonight.’’