The Reds’ week from hell is picking up speed, and the week is still young. Their 5-4 loss to the Cardinals on Tuesday night may not have been the worst of the lot in their numbing four-game losing streak, but that is faint consolation.
“Four walkoffs in a row isn’t fun,” said third baseman Todd Frazier, only slightly overstating the Reds’ plight. “It’s crazy. I’ve never been around something like that. I never want to see it again.”
It’s actually three trudgeoffs and a loss in the bottom of the eighth, but at times like this, they hurt pretty much the same. To recap the chain of events that have left the Reds 10 games back of Milwaukee in the NL Central and 4½ back of San Francisco in the wild-card race, sit down and buckle up:
In Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader in Colorado, the Reds took a 9-5 lead into the ninth inning and had their closer Aroldis Chapman on the mound, only to see him walk the first four batters he faced and the Rockies score five times to win 10-9.
In Game 2, the Reds led 5-2 after 6½ innings, only to allow the Rockies to score three in the seventh to tie the game and five in the eighth to win it 10-5.
In the first game of the series with the Cardinals on Monday, they led 4-3 after 6½, fell behind 5-4, scored in the top of the ninth to send the game to extra innings and then lost in the 10th.
And then there was Tuesday, with the team leading 4-1 after 5½ only to see the Cardinals score two in the sixth, one in the eighth to tie, then one in the ninth to win on the always popular walkoff hit batter. J.J. Hoover was the guilty party as he lost for the 10th straight time and fell to 1-10 on the season.
The fact that Hoover was in the game shows you how frazzled the Reds’ bullpen is right now. Chapman was not available on Tuesday — “He’s day to day and today was not a day he was going to pitch,” Reds manager Bryan Price said — and for the second straight day, setup man Jonathan Broxton didn’t get into the game because Price was holding on to him for a save opportunity that never came. The Reds starters have gone past six innings just once in the four games. The bullpen has allowed 19 runs in 10 2/3 innings starting on Sunday. Alfredo Simon went just 5 1/3 innings on Tuesday, but leaving him in longer was not an option for Price. Simon threw 109 pitches; pitch 108 was a home run blast by Jhonny Peralta and pitch 109 was a hard hit single by Jon Jay. The prospects for pitch 110 weren’t good.
“It’s a different style of losing, unfortunately, in the sense we’ve been playing better, more consistent offensively,” Price said. “We’ve taken advantage of some opportunities to score and we haven’t been able to shut the door. You get in a situation we’re asking the guys to go in again and again. (This was) three days in a row for Jumbo (Diaz), three in a row for Manny (Parra), no Chapman, makes it a little harder to dice up those last few innings. If we get 5 1/3 innings per start, we’re vulnerable. We definitely have to get more depth, more innings from our starters to shorten the game.”
Price said the minors aren’t an option because “it’s not like we have guys in the system who are lighting up the opportunity radar.”
If there’s a glimmer of hope for the Reds, it’s that Johnny Cueto, who is tied for the NL lead in wins with 15, starts tonight. Time is running out on the Reds, who are four games below .500 at 61-65 and have three teams between them and San Francisco, the second-place team in the wild card chase.
“We’ve just got to keep going,” said Frazier, one of the few players in the Reds clubhouse after the game. “Just got to keep going. You never really know what can happen. We’ve still got a month and a half left, maybe less than that. We’ve got to find this winning streak and keep going. We’ve got Johnny throwing and it seems like whenever Johnny’s in there we’ve got a really good chance. Let’s build off him, let’s let him carry us tomorrow and we’ll be all right.”
And while the bullpen leaks, Frazier thinks it’s up to the offense to create an unassailable lead.
“We’ve just got to keep scoring,” Frazier said. “That’s the name of the game. You know in the major leagues, no lead is safe. We’ve got to just keep attacking and attacking. We had a couple of opportunities to score a couple more runs, didn’t do so, and it just seems like two outs and runners on, the Cardinals are getting the job done. We’ve got to just keep adding runs in, get as many as we can.”