Bullpen again fails the lead-losing Cincinnati Reds

John Franco awaits a call. Rob Dibble is warming up somewhere. Danny Graves must be thinking, “Why not me?”

The great Cincinnati Reds relievers of the past should be shaking their heads at the state of the current bullpen, which blew another game Sunday to keep it on track to be one of the worst in baseball history.

Steve Delabar, Blake Wood and Ross Ohlendorf allowed runs in four consecutive innings as the Reds blew a 4-1 lead and lost 5-4 to the Milwaukee Brewers in the series finale at Great American Ball Park.

The Reds (13-19) split the four-game series against the Brewers (13-18) after winning the first two games. The bullpen ended a Major League-record streak of 23 games with at least one run allowed Friday in a 5-1 victory before giving up eight runs Saturday in a 13-5, 10-inning loss and four runs on Sunday.

The Reds bullpen’s ERA stands at 6.59. If that doesn’t improve, it would be the fifth-worst bullpen ERA in baseball history and the worst since the Saint Louis Browns in 1950 (6.81). The Reds have allowed almost half their runs (86 of 185) after the sixth inning and have lost leads in nine of their 19 losses.

“Right now we’re not getting (enough innings) from the starters and the quality from the bullpen,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “We just have to get better, or all these guys are going to be gassed by the time we get to June 1 at this pace. We’ll have to look at potentially at an eight-man bullpen. We certainly have to perform better to where we don’t have to continually to try to find the hot hand. All these guys are pitching too much.”

Here are five things to know about this game:

1. Lamb hurt: Reds starter John Lamb pitched a strong four innings, giving up a home run to Ryan Braun in the first inning but only one other hit. He left the game in the top of the fifth after jamming his thumb during an at-bat. He is day to day, the Reds announced.

2. Big inning: The Reds trailed 1-0 until the third, when three straight hits — a triple by Tyler Holt, a double by Ivan De Jesus Jr. and a single by Joey Votto — scored three runs.

3. Enough offense: Through Saturday, Reds pitchers ranked 29th out of 30 teams in ERA (5.33). Its offense at least has been respectable. It ranked 14th in home runs (32) and tied for 15th in runs (128).

4. Hot bat: Adam Duvall hit a home run in the fourth inning to give the Reds a 4-1 lead. It was his fourth home run in the last six games. He's tied with Brandon Phillips and Eugenio Suarez for the team lead with six home runs.

5. Abrupt ending: Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy threw out Billy Hamilton stealing second to end the game with pinch hitter Zack Cozart at the plate.

“We have to take our shots,” Price said, “or we have to hope Cozart hits one out or hits one in the gap or we string together a couple of hits. I felt it was worth the gamble. Lucroy put one right on the bag, and that was it.”