Reds still in contention despite baseball’s worst rotation

Reds pitcher Amir Garrett and Devin Mesoraco pause after Garrett was hit on the hand by a groundball during a game against Indians on Tuesday, May 23, 2017, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

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Reds pitcher Amir Garrett and Devin Mesoraco pause after Garrett was hit on the hand by a groundball during a game against Indians on Tuesday, May 23, 2017, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

The Cincinnati Reds slipped into a tie for last place Sunday with a 13-8 loss to the Atlanta Braves. On the bright side, the Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates trailed the Milwaukee Brewers by only four games in the National League Central.

The Reds (25-30) were five games ahead of where they were last season through 55 games and 14 games closer in the standings. They trailed the Chicago Cubs by 19 games at the same point a year ago.

The Reds have managed to stay in contention despite having the worst rotation in baseball. Reds starters had a 6.13 ERA through Sunday. No other group of starters in baseball had an ERA worse than 5.31.

“We’re 25-30 and know that as we get enhanced performance from the rotation, we could very easily be one of those teams that busts out a long winning streak,” said Reds manager Bryan Price on Monday before the start of a four-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals. “We have to get better in that area and give ourselves the opportunity to take the lead into late innings, which has really been our recipe for success.”

Schebler out: Center field Billy Hamilton returned to action Monday, but right fielder Scott Schebler was not in the lineup. Both players injured their shoulders Saturday and didn't play Sunday. Price said there was a chance Schebler could play Tuesday.

“He’s got to do some on-field things,” Price said. “Take batting practice, take balls in the outfield, do some throwing, do a normal pregame. Billy was able to do most of that yesterday and was feeling quite better by the end of the game.”

Cozart rising: Shortstop Zack Cozart climbed from third to second among National League shortstops in All-Star voting. He has 547,750 votes, trailing only the Los Angeles Dodgers' Corey Seager (604,783).

Cozart is having a career year. He’s hitting .344. His career average is .253.

“I think he’s always been a good offensive performer and outstanding defensive performer,” Price said. “Now the offense has caught up with the defense. He’s not just a guy who lines a single to right. He hits homers. He adds a bunch of doubles and triples.”

Left fielder Adam Duvall ranks 13th among NL outfielders in voting.

Louisville updates: Cody Reed is 1-4 with a 3.23 ERA in six starts since being sent to Triple-A Louisville on May 4. He had his best start Saturday, throwing six shutout innings against Lehigh Valley.

Robert Stephenson threw four shutout innings Sunday against Lehigh Valley in his first appearance since being sent down on May 30.

Catcher Stuart Turner is 5-for-18 in five games in a rehab appearance with Louisville. He caught all nine innings Sunday. He has been on the disabled list since May 20 with a strained right hamstring.

Next game: Tim Adleman (3-2, 4.89 ERA) starts a 7:10 p.m. game Wednesday against Adam Wainwright (6-3, 3.79). In his last start against the Cardinals on April 28, Adleman allowed five earned runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.

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