CINCINNATI -- The last time the Reds opened a season with these kinds of struggles was 1955, when rock 'n' roll music and McDonald's were just getting started and the polio vaccine was deemed safe and effective.With a 5-3 loss to the Cardinals on Friday at Great American Ball Park,
CINCINNATI -- The last time the Reds opened a season with these kinds of struggles was 1955, when rock 'n' roll music and McDonald's were just getting started and the polio vaccine was deemed safe and effective.
With a 5-3 loss to the Cardinals on Friday at Great American Ball Park, the Reds fell to 2-11. The 1955 club, which also sat at 2-11, rallied to finish the season with a 75-79 record. Cincinnati has dropped six in a row while scoring 16 runs during the skid -- clearly missing the contributions of injured players like Eugenio Suarez and Scott Schebler. Jesse Winker was added to the list when he was scratched moments before first pitch.
"We're just not playing good baseball in general," catcher Devin Mesoraco said. "We're not pitching, not playing good defense, not hitting. Obviously losing Geno and Schebler is an issue, but it gives other guys opportunity. When you're in that situation, you have to step up and you have to take advantage of it. We just have to play better."
Cardinals starter Luke Weaver began his night by walking Billy Hamilton, then retired 12 in a row before an infield hit by Mesoraco began the fifth inning. Mesoraco returned in the seventh and ended Weaver's shutout bid, and evening, with a two-run homer to left field.
After a promising beginning to his night, Reds rookie starter Tyler Mahle was knocked out of the game after 5 1/3 innings with five earned runs, nine hits, no walks and five strikeouts. Mahle also surrendered two home runs, increasing the pitching staff's Major League high to 23.
As he demonstrated good command of his four-seam fastball, all five of Mahle's strikeouts came over the first three innings. Yadier Molina's two-out solo homer to right field in the second was the lone blemish for a while. A double play by Marcell Ozuna ended the fourth and following back-to-back errors by third baseman Cliff Pennington, Mahle escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam unscathed in the fifth. Weaver grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play that kept the Reds within striking distance.
Mahle couldn't keep St. Louis down in the sixth, with four straight hits to begin the inning. William Fowler led off with a homer to the first row of seats in right field. Ozuna's RBI single scored Tommy Pham and Molina's two-run single made it 5-0 and ended the right-hander's night. Like in his previous start at Pittsburgh on Sunday, the third time through the opponent's lineup did Mahle in.
"They hit some good pitches that hurt me. They ended up hitting the bad ones, too," said Mahle, who is 1-2 with a 5.63 ERA in three starts. "They didn't do that earlier in the game."
The Reds crept closer in the eighth with Joey Votto's one-out RBI single against Tyler Lyons, making it a two-run game. But with Mesoraco representing the tying run at the plate with two outs, Votto reacted late to right-hander Dominic Leone's pickoff throw and made the third out.
Bud Norris was entrusted with the save attempt in the ninth and gave up a one-out single to Adam Duvall, followed by a Phillip Ervin walk that put the tying run on first base. Norris recovered and struck out Alex Blandino swinging and got a called third strike on pinch-hitter Tucker Barnhart to end the game.
Besides hitting .230 as a team, the Reds entered the evening with the fewest runs scored in the National League.
"[There are] some guys that are having a hard time getting started that will," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I think when the season is over, we'll look up and be real happy with the numbers. The thing is in order to win games, we're going to need to be more proficient offensively, we'll have to stay away from the big inning from a pitching perspective, and we're going to have to play much better defense. We have a lot of areas to work on right now."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Mesoraco goes deep: Following Scooter Gennett's leadoff single in the seventh, a roller into right field that gave Cincinnati its first hit that left the infield, Mesoraco provided something more powerful. He slugged Weaver's 1-2 pitch into the left-field seats for his first homer of the season. Mesoraco, who is now a backup to Barnhart following three injury-filled seasons, last homered on June 16, 2017, against the Dodgers.
"A veteran team like that, the third time through [the order], they made some adjustments and were able to get the barrel to it," Mesoraco said. "We have to keep chipping away there when we're down."
First big league hit: Pinch-hitting for the Reds in the seventh inning, Blandino sent a two-out single through the middle for his first Major League hit. Blandino was called up for the first time from Triple-A Louisville on Monday and came into the game 0-for-7.
HE SAID IT
"It's a pretty polished lineup. There's not a whole lot of places to go. If you choose to pitch around Molina, then you've got [Paul] DeJong. There's not a lot of soft places to go with this lineup. You have to pitch well. You can't make many mistakes, they take advantage of it. Especially elevation pitches, they were able to get to their power a little bit and drive some balls into the outfield and put together a nice inning." -- Price, on the Cardinals' four-run sixth inning against Mahle
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Weaver took a no-hitter into the fifth inning when Mesoraco led off with a grounder to shortstop DeJong, who made a nice diving stop to his left. Mesoraco was ruled safe on the field after DeJong's throw from his knees was not in time. The Cardinals challenged the call and after a lengthy review, replay officials determined that the call stands as it could not be definitively determined that the ball was in Jose Martinez's glove at first base before Mesoraco touched the bag.
Brandon Finnegan will be making his 2018 debut as the Reds host the Cardinals today at 1:10 p.m. ET. Finnegan, who will be working opposite St. Louis starter Miles Mikolas, is pitching for the first time since June 26, 2017. He began this season on the disabled list because of a left biceps strain.
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.