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Reds' starting pitching stumbles during skid

MLB.com

CINCINNATI -- The Reds are in the midst of an eight-game skid, and the issue plaguing them most over this recent stretch is one that's been ubiquitous all season: poor starting pitching.

Before Saturday's game between Cincinnati and the Dodgers, Reds starters ranked last in the Major Leagues in ERA, innings pitched, strikeouts, home runs allowed and opponent slugging percentage and OPS. They also ranked in the bottom three in batting average allowed and strikeout-to-walk ratio.

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CINCINNATI -- The Reds are in the midst of an eight-game skid, and the issue plaguing them most over this recent stretch is one that's been ubiquitous all season: poor starting pitching.

Before Saturday's game between Cincinnati and the Dodgers, Reds starters ranked last in the Major Leagues in ERA, innings pitched, strikeouts, home runs allowed and opponent slugging percentage and OPS. They also ranked in the bottom three in batting average allowed and strikeout-to-walk ratio.

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Reds right-hander Asher Wojciechowski is the latest to add to the resume of mediocrity, giving up six runs (five earned) and two homers over 2 1/3 innings in Cincinnati's 10-2 loss to Los Angeles on Saturday. During their losing streak, Reds starters have an ERA of 7.94 (30 R/34 IP).

"Along the way we've had a couple of good starts by Tim Adleman and Amir Garrett that we weren't able to capitalize on," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "But we've also had our handful or share of these short starts. ... You're either getting blown out early or we're not scoring many when we do get a good pitching performance. And that's, when you lose eight in a row, usually you have a couple of each in that mix."

Wojciechowski threw strikes -- he picked up five strikeouts through two innings -- but his location proved his undoing in the third. In consecutive at-bats, Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger and Joc Pederson each laced a pitch over the heart of the plate for a two-run double, a two-run home run and a solo homer, respectively.

"I was just too much in the middle of the plate on three pitches, and it ended up being five runs that inning on just poorly executed pitches that were just down the middle ..." Wojciechowski said. "I'm definitely frustrated about it, but I've just got to get a move on, I've got to look to my next start and learn from this, definitely."

Video: LAD@CIN: Price on the 10-2 loss to the Dodgers

Wojciechowski's next start might be his last to prove he can be effective enough to stay in the rotation. The Reds could realistically see both Homer Bailey and Brandon Finnegan return to the club by the end of the month after spending the majority of the season on the disabled list.

Bailey hasn't had a full season since 2013, but has looked sharp in his most recent rehab starts. In an outing for low Class A Dayton on Wednesday, the right-hander threw six one-hit innings and struck out six. He's expected to make one more rehab start for Triple-A Louisville on Monday before the Reds reassess his progress.

Finnegan, who allowed one hit over seven innings in his first start of the year, has been on the DL with a left shoulder sprain since leaving a start early on April 15. He started for Double-A Pensacola on Friday -- tossing four shutout innings -- and should make at least two more rehab appearances before being re-evaluated.

Bailey and Finnegan are expected to slide into the rotation once they return to Cincinnati, presumably bumping Wojciechowski and the struggling Bronson Arroyo -- who gave up nine runs in his last start -- for a much-needed lift. But while it's natural to look ahead to their return, Price said his team's focus should be getting the job done with their current roster.

"We sit there and it's kind of like this thing we hang out there like, 'Let's wait. Let's wait,'" he said. "We can't just keep waiting. We have to perform better with what we have."

On June 8, Cincinnati sat at 29-30, just two games back of the Brewers for the National League Central lead. Nine days later, they're 6 1/2 back and 13 out of a Wild Card position. The Reds won't have to wait much longer for rotation relief, but they're in danger of creating an insurmountable margin if their losing streak continues.

"You don't want to get back into this game where we're playing the last two-and-a-half months just for guys to improve and learn," Price said. "You want to have meaningful games. I just don't want for us to get ourselves in a hole that we can't dig ourselves out of."

Jeremy Vernon is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Reds, Asher Wojciechowski