The Reds (9-10) are back on the road grind again. After being blanked by the Chicago Cubs to end a seven-game home stand, Cincinnati will try to rebound against the New York Mets (10-7). A huge heaping of home cooking didn't get things right for the Reds. Winning only three of the seven games at Great American Ballpark exposed problems that need to be corrected. But, the season is early. The Reds still have time to right the ship.
The return to GABP started with promising results. Losing the first game of the Colorado series was a hard pill to swallow. The next two games showcased the Reds' young arms and gave fans hope for the future. Robert Stephenson was again called upon to save the rotation, and he delivered. Stephenson's on-call magic helped Cincinnati snap a modest two-game losing streak and earned him win number two.
In the rubber game against the Rockies, young gun Raisel Iglesias gave the Reds another quality start. Working 6.2 innings, Iglesias allowed two runs and struck out eight. He seemed to be on his way to victory. Iglesias and the Reds had a 5-2 lead. Then the inevitable happened. The Reds' bullpen entered and promptly surrendered three runs to tie the game. The Achilles heel had reared its head again.
The Redlegs mounted an amazing walk-off victory, in the home frame of the ninth inning. But, the arms in the pen had almost blown it.
Taking two games from the Rockies was uplifting. Losing four games to the Cubs was a reality check. The Cubbies have one of the strongest pitching staffs in the National League. So far, the Central Division has been owned by Chicago.
In seven games with the Cubs, the Reds have been outscored 60-20. Quiet bats and questionable pitching have contributed to the Reds falling to fourth place. Cincinnati has one win in the series. Take away the 15-hit, 13-run onslaught in that win and Reds bats have been woeful. The Cubs had two shutouts in three wins.
"They roughed us up five out of the seven games we played. We lost six out of seven," Reds manager Bryan Price explained via the Cincinnati Reds website. "We understand they outplayed us. But going into New York, it's going to be a great atmosphere playing the National League champs and getting after it and looking for better results."
Alfredo Simon started his second game against the red-hot Cubs. Both times, he has been chased from the mound. In the Windy City, the Cubs roughed him up for five runs in less than an inning. Sunday's outing was even worse. Simon lasted 2.2 innings but gave up eight runs en route to the loss. The big damage came from two homers by Anthony Rizzo.
"Just poor execution. He didn't really have a pitch to finish anybody today," Price said.
"The good news is his arm is feeling better, but the result wasn't very good. We have to get him back to being sharp down in the strike zone and really bang in a lot of those sinkers and get some early contact on the ground to give us a chance to keep the pitch count down and keep our starters in the game."
The bullpen performed better in the last loss. Over the final frames, the Reds surrendered one more run. The relief corps still needs work. But, the "execution" of the pitching staff will certainly have to get better. After allowing three more dingers on Sunday, Reds pitchers have given up 34 home runs. In the last 10 games, the Reds have seen 24 balls leave the park.
There have been just two games without the opposition hitting a long ball.
At this point of the campaign, the Reds are struggling on the mound and at the plate. To stay in the tight Central Division race, they'll have to get better fast. Catcher Tucker Barnhart said it best, via the Cincinnati Enquirer.
"You never want to make excuses. We've got to go out there and roll with the guys we've got and play good baseball."
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]