Warm weather earlier in the weekend didn’t help the Cincinnati Reds. Four games in front of friendly fans — many of whom are becoming less friendly and more frustrated by the day — didn’t help. A quality start Sunday by Homer Bailey couldn’t stop the slide.
Hours after manager Bryan Price insisted, “It always turns; it will turn,” the season continued on the same course. Call it a train wreck. Call it a dumpster fire. Pick your favorite analogy.
The Reds fell to 2-13 — their worst start since 1931 — with a 3-2 loss to the Saint Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park and started a three-game series in Milwaukee on Monday. The Reds, who have lost eight straight games, are one of 41 teams in baseball history to start the season 2-13 or worse.
The Reds are not very good, and nothing has gone their way. It’s a bad combination. It says something about the state of affairs that the Cardinals sweeping a four-game series in Cincinnati for the first time since 1949 was only a minor footnote.
Here are four reasons the Reds have struggled:
1. Run production: The Reds rank last in baseball in runs scored per game (2.9). The top-scoring team, the Los Angeles Angels, averages 6.4 runs by comparison.
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Injuries to two starters, outfielder Scott Schebler and third baseman Eugenio Suarez, who both went on the disabled list on April 9, have hurt. They combined to drive in 149 runs last season. Outfielder Jesse Winker also missed the last three games of the weekend series with a sore shoulder.
“Part of it is not having the lineup as we thought we would have it,” Price said. “However, you can’t be a couple injuries away from not being able to be productive. The kids that are here are guys we expected to be here this year. It’s not all on them. It’s up to the veteran players really to carry the load and be more productive.”
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2. Power outage: The Reds rank 26th out of 30 teams in home runs (11). They’re averaging 0.7 home runs per game. Last season, they ranked 13th in baseball with 219 home runs (1.4 per game).
Billy Hamilton, who hit his first home run of the season Sunday in the eighth inning, has more home runs than Joey Votto.
3. Fundamental failures: The Reds had the tying runner on second with no outs in the ninth inning Sunday. Alex Blandino struck out after failing on a sacrifice bunt attempt. The next batter, Phillip Ervin, struck out. Two batters later, after Devin Mesoraco was hit by a pitch, Hamilton hit a hard line drive to left fielder Harrison Bader to end the game.
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“We’re integrating a lot of young people into this group with the amount of guys sitting on the DL,” Price said. “With our desire to go with a younger group of players as opposed to an older group of players, they’re going to go through these things. It’s the unfortunately part of the business. We’ve asked a lot of young guys to come up and pitch out of the rotation, pitch out of the bullpen, play off the bench, and currently with Suarez out, Schebler out, Winker out to actually pick up quite a bit of playing time. Through these experiences, they need to learn. These aren’t mistakes that we can repeat consistently. These are certainly things we need to get better at and do it in a hurry.”
4. All-around struggles: Two years ago, the Reds bullpen ranked second to last in baseball in ERA (5.09). Last year, the bullpen improved, but the starting pitching ranked second to last (5.55).
This year, the starters and relievers have both struggled. Reds starters have a 5.74 ERA, which ranks last. The relievers rank 28th (5.96).