The Cincinnati Reds flew west with high spirits and matching outfits, posing for a photo Wednesday in red bowling shirts before they departed for San Francisco.
With three straight losses against the Giants and another tough series starting Tuesday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, the Reds find themselves facing familiar questions about whether they have the talent to stay among the top teams in the National League Central Division.
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Here are five things to know about where the Reds (19-18) stand just over a fifth of the way into the season:
1. Cold bats: The Reds scored nine runs in the four-game series and failed to score more than three runs in any game. That included the 17-inning, 3-2 loss Friday.
The Reds scored at least four runs in each of the seven games prior to the series. In the three losses, the Reds went 1-for-25 with runners in scoring position and left 33 runners on base.
2. Poor start: The Reds got three straight strong starts from Bronson Arroyo (two earned runs in six innings), Scott Feldman (two earned runs in seven innings) and Lisalverto Bonilla (three runs in eight innings) but ran out of luck Sunday. Tim Adleman allowed three earned runs in one inning and left the game with a sore neck.
The Reds rank sixth in the National League in team ERA (4.24) largely because of the strength of their bullpen. Reds starters rank second-to-last in the league with a 5.15 ERA. They have thrown 185 1/3 innings. The bullpen has a 3.14 ERA, third in the league, in 152 innings.
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3. Better position: Even with three straight losses, the Reds are four games ahead of where they were last season through 37 games (15-22). They trailed the Cubs by 12½ games last season on May 15. Through Sunday, the Reds were 2½ games behind the St. Louis Cardinals and 1½ behind the Milwaukee Brewers.
4. All-Star candidates: Voting for the All-Star Game, which will be held July 11 in Miami, is underway.
Joey Votto is tied for second among NL first baseman in RBIs (33) and is tied for fifth in home runs (10). Zack Cozart leads NL shortstops with a .336 batting average and .432 on-base percentage.
5. Looking ahead: The defending World Series champion Cubs (18-19) are off to a slow start. They have lost six of their last seven games, including two of three in St. Louis last weekend.
Bronson Arroyo (3-2, 5.94) will start the series opener for the Reds at 8:05 p.m. Tuesday against the Cubs’ John Lackey (3-3, 4.29).