McCoy: Bullpen falters again as Reds lose fourth straight

For the Cincinnati Reds, it was second verse, same as the first. And the third verse and the fourth verse.

Silent bats and failed relief pitching translated to a fourth straight defeat, this one a 8-5 beatdown to the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night in Great American Ball Park.

Chicago pitcher Alec Mills, the 673rd player selected in the 2012 draft, used an assortment of 66 mph curveballs and 90 mphfastballs to put a double muzzle on the Reds.

Over six innings he gave up only two hits, both by Nick Castellanos. The second hit was a two-run home run in the fourth inning that tied the game, 2-2.

Mills was making only his sixth major league start and he produced his second major league victory, both against the Reds.

Manager David Bell is almost at a loss for words at this point.

“We just have to find ways to get better, that’s what it takes,” he said during his post-game press conference via Zoom. “We’re looking at everything. Each day it has been a different thing.

“We just have to get better in all areas of the game,” he added. “There has been good things mixed in, but obviously not good enough the last four days. We’ve talked about the urgency of a shorter season and there is no doubt that’s a factor. We do have time to get it going, but we have to make adjustments quick.”

Chicago’s two early runs came off starter Tyler Mahle, who gave up the two runs and six hits over four innings.

He turned that 2-2 tie over to the beleagured bullpen and the Cubs chipped away.

Cody Reed gave up a run in the fifth after he had two outs and nobody on, Pedro Strop gave up a run in the sixth (it was charged to Reed beause he walked the first batter in the inning), Strop gave up a home run to Javier Baez in the seventh and Nate Jones gave up a home run to David Bote in the eighth.

The Cubs scored single runs in six straight innings from the third through the eighth., then added two more off Michael Lorenzen in the ninth.

Down 6-2 in the eighth, the Reds tried to stage another comeback the way they did Monday night, coming from 8-1 behind to an 8-7 loss.

Curt Casali opened the eighth with a home run and pinch-hitter Phillip Ervin walked. Joey Votto hit into a double play. Eugenio Suarez broke his 0 for 16 start to the season with a bloop single down the right field line. Christian Colon, pinch-hitting for Jesse Winker, struck out and that was that.

Lorenzen took over for the ninth and gave up  single to Anthony Rizzo and a home run to Baez, his second home run of the game. And it was the third home run Lorenzen has given up in three appearances.

And it took away the Reds’ hopes of staging a comeback, although Freddy Galvis hit a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth.

All five Reds runs came on home runs, but the offense produced only six hits.

Mahle was good for two innings, giving up no runs with a walk and a strikeout.

“Tyler pitcher better than he results and the results weren’t that bad, by any means,” said Bell. “He had a good fastball and his developing slider continues to get better. Taking him out was to try to keep it right there (2-2) and give our team a chance to get back in it.”

That, of course, didn’t work out.

Misfortune slapped him in the face in the third when center fielder Shogo Akiyama couldn’t find a fly ball by Jason Kipnis in the sun and it fell for a triple. Nico Hoerner singled and it was 1-0.

The Cubs scored another run off Mahle in the third with three straight singles, the third by Jason Kipnis scored a run for a 2-0 lead.

Castellanos doubled with one out in the second. But Josh VanMeter struck out and Aristides Aquino hit another dribbling ground ball.

Mills retired the next seven in a row until he walked Jesse Winker with two outs in the fourth and Castellanos homered to tie it, 2-2.

Then it was Bullpen Time for the Reds and so far this season it has been Blowpen Time.

Castellanos pointed out the obvious, that the team’s offense misses Mike Moustakas and Nick Senzel and said, “Both have tested negative, but unfortunately the protocol says they can’t return until Thursday.

“We’re trying to live up to the expectations of this team,” he said. “I just wish my home run had resulted in a win.”

Asked about his feelings about the team’s chances, he said, “They are extremely strong. I’ll put up our rotation against anybodys. You look at our lineup. . .but it’s unfortunate Moose and Nick are unable to play due to protocols. That’s a big letdown because both are big parts of our lineup.”

So the Reds are 1-and-4, a precarious start to a 60-game season, and the Cubs are 4-and-1.