How can a team that fashions itself as a championship contender go 0-for-San Diego?
How about scoring two runs in three games over 27 innings?
How about striking out 29 times in three games, about the same number Tony Gwynn used to strike out for an entire season?
The Cincinnati Reds were swept by the San Diego Padres, 1-0, 8-2 and 3-0, the first sweep by the Padres against any team this season.
And for the season, against a team that has a batting average barely above the interstate, the Reds lost five of six games and are telling themselves, “Thank the baseball gods we don’t have to play these guys again.”
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The Reds began this 10-game trip by winning two of three in Chicago and all four in San Francisco, rambling into San Diego with a 6-1 record.
So after the three losses the Reds limp home for a three-game series against first-place Milwaukee, starting Friday night, on a three-game losing streak and 6 ½ games out of first place.
It could have been worse. The Brewers cooperated by losing two straight in Toronto, including Wednesday afternoon on a three-run walk-off home run by former Reds third baseman Edwin Encarnacion.
San Diego pitcher Tyson Ross, 6-8 with a 3.18 earned-run average when he took the mound Wednesday and prone to walks, held the Reds to three hits — two singles by Todd Frazier and a late-game double by Brayan Pena.
It seemed as if nearly every Reds hitter found himself down 0-and-2 on every at-bat. Billy Hamilton, who was named National League Rookie of the Month for June, was down 0-and-2 all four at-bats and struck out twice en route to a 0-for-4 afternoon.
If anybody could have stopped the skid it figured to be Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto. But he gave up three runs in the first inning, the day’s only scoring.
Former Cincinnati outfielder Chris Denorfia started the rally with a one-out single and Chase Headley followed with a single. Cueto walked Tommy Medica to fill the basses with one out.
Cueto induced a shallow fly to right for the second out as the runners held. But backup catcher Rene Rivera, hitting .220, hit a sinking live drive to right center. After a long run, Hamilton stretched out in a dive and the ball bounced off the heel of his glove and squirted away. All three baserunners scored, a three-run single.
Ross pitched his first career complete game and first career shutout and only one player wearing a visiting uniform reached third base. Pena doubled with one out in the eighth and took third on a ground ball. Joey Votto, pinch-hitting after taking most of the day off, hit a lazy fly to right.
Cueto shut it off after the first inning and pitched seven innings, giving up three runs and seven hits while walking three and striking out eight, dropping his record to 8-6 and his earned run average to 1.99 — perhaps putting a crimp in his All-Star aspirations.
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