MILWAUKEE -- Anthony DeSclafani has two more starts left in 2018 with a chance to head into the offseason with a slightly better feeling. The Reds right-hander is keenly aware that his four September starts have seen him knocked out of orbit and into a solar system far from successful.
MILWAUKEE -- Anthony DeSclafani has two more starts left in 2018 with a chance to head into the offseason with a slightly better feeling. The Reds right-hander is keenly aware that his four September starts have seen him knocked out of orbit and into a solar system far from successful. At the same, the Reds don't know why.
DeSclafani gave up two home runs in the fifth inning as the Reds were roughed up by Christian Yelich and the Brewers during an 8-0 loss Monday night at Miller Park. DeSclafani is 0-2 with 7.79 ERA in his last four games.
"[I'm] trying to figure something out to make it different, help me get through five, six, seven innings without it being a struggle almost every inning," he said. "It's pretty frustrating, but sometimes this game is going to kick you in the butt. It's going to challenge you, and I just need to accept the challenge and try to figure out a way to get better, get over the hump and just be better than what I am."
DeSclafani completed five innings for the first time this month, giving up three of his four earned runs in the fifth and seven hits overall. He walked two and struck out five.
"I feel terrible for Anthony because he can't really identify what the problem is, the ball is coming out so good, he feels great, his arm is strong," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said.
As has been the case lately, DeSclafani was mostly smooth the first time facing the lineup -- Milwaukee notched two singles and no runs -- only to have problems the second and third time through. Entering the night, opponents batted .211 the first time facing DeSclafani, but .306 the second time and .289 the third time.
In the third inning after a one-out walk to Curtis Granderson, Yelich hit a double on his way to hitting for the cycle. The Brewers took a 1-0 lead when Lorenzo Cain drove in Granderson with a sacrifice fly. The inning was extended with a wild pitch and a two-out walk to Travis Shaw before DeSclafani escaped.
Pinch-hitter Domingo Santana led off the fifth by hitting a 1-1 pitch into the left-center-field bullpen. Granderson followed with a single before Yelich pulled the first pitch from DeSclafani inside the right-field foul pole for a two-run homer and 4-0 Brewers lead.
"Honestly, I could care less what the numbers are saying the second, third or fourth time through the lineup. I'll leave those numbers for Jim and he can use those to manage the game how he likes," DeSclafani said. "All I know from past experience is I am able to handle the second time through the lineup and the third time. I've done it before. It's not a question of whether I can do it or not. I know I can do it. I've got to do it."
Left-handed hitters like Yelich have been rough on DeSclafani this season. He's allowed 15 homers vs. lefties compared to seven against righty hitters -- including Santana.
"Yelich, specifically, but left-handed hitters in general have hurt us so much, have hurt Anthony -- a lot of our pitchers have been hurt by these Cubs, Brewers, Pittsburgh lineups in our division," Riggleman said. "Until we figure out how to get these left-handers out, we're not going to rise in the division."
In 19 starts this season, after missing the first two months with a left oblique strain, DeSclafani is 7-6 with a 4.92 ERA.
As August came to an end, DeSclafani had every reason to be optimistic that he would end his season strong. He went 3-1 with a 2.62 ERA in five starts last month and had four walks compared to 27 strikeouts. Over four starts in September, it's been rough results, to say the least.
"I don't feel any different than August," DeSclafani said. "I don't feel like I'm getting behind batters or doing anything different. I'm not quite sure what the main difference is from August to September. All I know is I'm not getting outs. I'm not keeping runs off the board and I'm not giving my team a chance to win. It's irrelevant what August was. I have to be better today."
According to Statcast™, batters had a hard-hit rate of 39 percent against DeSclafani through July 31, with a barrel rate of 8.2 percent. He was able to get much weaker contact in August, with a 23.3 percent hard-hit rate that was fifth lowest in the Majors among 152 pitchers with a minimum of 50 batted balls. The barrel rate was 3.8 percent.
In September, DeSclafani returned to his pre-August baseline with a hard-hit rate of 35.7 percent and an 8.9 percent barrel rate.
"The velo is there. The breaking ball seems to be sharp. I'm not figuring it out right now," DeSclafani said. "One thing I'm thankful for is that I am healthy and I get the chance to accept this challenge and figure something out. For that I'm definitely grateful but at the same time, no doubt it's frustrating. There is no doubt that it's unacceptable."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Yelich cycles the Reds, again: The game got away from the Reds during the four-run sixth against relievers Wandy Peralta and Jesus Reyes. Yelich completed his cycle with a two-run triple to center field, which brought the crowd of 32,145 fans to their feet for a standing ovation.
Yelich finished 4-for-4 in the game and became the fifth player in the Major Leagues to hit for a cycle twice in one season and the only one to do it against the same team twice. He also hit for the cycle on Aug. 29 during a six-hit performance in Cincinnati. This season against the Reds, he is 24-for-48 (.500) with seven homers, 17 RBIs and 12 runs.
"There's no question that he is hot right now," said DeSclafani, who like Yelich is a former Marlin. "He's doing some amazing things over there. It's well deserved. I know him from Miami and I know that he works his butt off. They all projected that he was going to be a top of the league hitter. I think if I just make my pitches, I can give myself a chance to get him out."
While he was at it, Yelich also moved into a tie with the Reds' Scooter Gennett in the race for the National League batting title. Gennett was 1-for-3 with a single and remained at .318 while Yelich's average jumped from .313.
When Mason Williams hit a single with Tim Federowicz on second base, it snapped Cincinnati's 0-for-30 streak with runners in scoring position and 0-for-44 stretch on the road with RISP. Federowicz was unable to score on the hit, leaving the Reds blanked as they dropped four of their last five games with two runs or fewer scored in each.
HE SAID IT
"We're in a little funk where we're not swinging it real well right now, but that happens. We've got a good offensive ballclub, we'll continue to have a good offensive ballclub, but I'm more concerned about the pitching. These left-handed hitters are beating up on us. We've got to figure it out." -- Riggleman
As Gennett and Yelich continue to compete for the NL batting title, reliever Michael Lorenzen will make his first start for the Reds since 2015 when the Reds face the Brewers again at 7:40 p.m. ET Tuesday. Lorenzen is expected to be on a limit of 50-60 pitches. Chase Anderson is scheduled to start for Milwaukee.
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.