Ups and downs of the Reds' loss to the Brewers

June 4th, 2023

CINCINNATI -- This week's four-game series with the first-place Brewers offered a young Reds club a nice opportunity. Win or sweep the series, and it could possibly take first place in the National League Central division.

Instead, Cincinnati has dropped the first three games -- including Sunday's 5-1 loss to Milwaukee at Great American Ball Park. The Reds are now six games back of the Brewers but have a slight edge for third place.

"Every experience, it’s our job to turn it into a good one and learn from it," Reds manager David Bell said. "I don’t think we’ve lost these three games because of anything other than just getting outplayed. It’s not because of our guys backing down at all."

Here are three important things from Sunday's defeat:

Lively struggled but worked seven innings
Reds starter completed seven innings for the first time since 2017 but gave up five earned runs and six hits with three walks, five strikeouts and two home runs.

Lively, who took a 1.99 ERA into the day over five games (three starts) since his May 9 callup from Triple-A Louisville, knew exactly what the difference was for him on Sunday.

"No slider," Lively said. "I was falling behind, I was struggling with my slider pretty much the whole game … One of those days."

With one out in the first, Lively walked Owen Miller on four pitches. With two outs, he walked Jon Singleton -- also on four pitches. Lively was immediately made to pay when Andruw Monasterio hit a 1-0 fastball over the plate to center field for a three-run homer.

Lively settled in after that, as he retired nine of the next 11 batters. It even included his own slick toe-tap on first base while covering to receive a throw from Spencer Steer to get pinch-hitter Mike Brosseau out to open the fourth inning.

Although he lacked his slider, Lively had four other pitches in his mix that he turned to.

"I had a chance to stay in the game with all of them," Lively said. "If one's bad, I have to make the adjustments to the other and flip my script a little bit. I'm going to fight no matter what."

The Brewers added two more runs in the fifth inning, including Victor Caratini's booming leadoff homer to the back rows of the right-field sun deck on a 3-1 sinker from Lively. 

Lively, who finished by retiring his final nine batters in a row, was disappointed he couldn't get a win and give the Reds a chance to split the series on Monday.

"I probably put a lot of pressure on myself today, for sure, after the first couple of games," Lively said. "Just the struggle bus today. Sucks, but we'll get better through it."

McLain getting some rips
During the 10th inning of Friday's 5-4 loss in 11 innings, Reds rookie shortstop  scorched a liner to center field, an out despite the drive having a robust exit velocity of 109.9 mph, according to Statcast.

On Sunday, McLain had two of his team's six hits and wasn't cheated. He opened the fourth inning with a leadoff double to the center-field wall that was tracked at 107.8 mph. With two outs in the sixth against Houser, McLain added a single to right-center field that left his bat at 106.1 mph.

Entering the game, McLain's average exit velocity on balls in play was 88.7 mph.

“The way he’s driving the ball to center, they really have good carry on it. He’s staying through the middle of the field," Bell said. "He continues to hit the ball well."

Fraley homers, makes great catch
In his previous 10 games entering the day, right fielder  was 7-for-36 (.194) -- including 2-for-17 in four games on the previous road trip to Chicago and Boston.

On a 2-1 pitch from Houser in the seventh inning on Sunday, Fraley lifted a leadoff homer to left-center field for the Reds' only run of the game. It gave Fraley his seventh homer of the season and second in the past two days. Overall, he's batting .257 with a .777 OPS.

"He’s having a solid year," Bell said. "He’s competitive with all of his at-bats, even on the road trip. I know the hits weren’t coming. [He's] definitely back. … It’s good to see him driving the ball and getting his hits.”

Fraley also made a nice catch before crashing into the wall to take extra bases from Owen Miller in the third inning.