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Reds fall in Philly with another close outcome

Cincinnati leads MLB in losses of 2 runs or fewer
@m_sheldon
June 7, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- Third baseman Eugenio Suárez snared several hot grounders. Left fielder Jesse Winker made a sliding catch on his back in foul territory. Joey Votto found his power again with a nice opposite-field home run. Tyler Mahle pitched quite respectably. Those are all the types of things that competitive

PHILADELPHIA -- Third baseman Eugenio Suárez snared several hot grounders. Left fielder Jesse Winker made a sliding catch on his back in foul territory. Joey Votto found his power again with a nice opposite-field home run. Tyler Mahle pitched quite respectably.

Those are all the types of things that competitive teams do to win games. Yet on Friday, the outcome for the Reds was a 4-2 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Why? It came down to a mistake pitch by Mahle, two critical errors and the offense going 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position while stranding 10 on base.

Box score

It marked the Reds' Major League-leading 23rd defeat by two runs or fewer. It put their record at 28-34, and seven games behind the first-place Cubs in the National League Central.

That's certainly not the record division titles are made from, but it also doesn't spell white-flag-waving time. The Reds have the second-best run differential in the division. Based on that plus-35 total, their expected win-loss record is eight games over .500 (35-27). Much credit belongs to Cincinnati's pitching staff, which is second in the NL with a 3.57 ERA.

While all of this indicates good times could lie ahead for the Reds, they haven't quite solved the season-long issue of finding ways to win close games.

"Losing is always frustrating, and losing close games is even more frustrating," Votto said. "It's such a long season. At some point, we're going to have a long stretch of playing easy baseball where we win a lot of games and win them pretty convincingly, and then winning some closer games, one-run games. I think we just have to stick to a continuous moving-forward attitude and mannerisms on the field. Hopefully, over the long term, it'll show itself."

In the first inning, Votto gave his team a 1-0 lead when he hit Zach Eflin's 2-0 fastball the opposite way over the left-center-field wall. It was his fifth homer of the season and his first since May 14.

Suarez made seven putouts, including a line drive in the second inning by Rhys Hoskins that Statcast tracked with 108.9 mph exit velocity. Suarez also made a slick backhanded stop of Scott Kingery's sharply hit grounder in the seventh. To end the third, Winker made his stunning catch of Cesar Hernandez's foul ball near the corner in left field.

On the flip side, a two-out pickoff attempt at third base by catcher Tucker Barnhart was airmailed into left field and enabled Kingery to score. It was Barnhart's first error of the season to make it a 3-1 game.

Cincinnati trailed, 3-2, in the eighth inning when a tailor-made double play by Jean Segura was missed when shortstop Jose Peraza -- who just entered the game in a double-switch -- made a throwing error to first base that scored Hernandez.

"Geno had a lot of action over at third base. He made some great plays. It looked like he was all over that side of the field tonight. The errors, we're less concerned about errors," Reds manager David Bell said. "We want guys to make plays. We want guys to be aggressive. Errors happen sometimes. You don't accept them but at the same time, you want to keep making plays and being aggressive."

Mahle pitched five innings with three runs (two earned), four hits, no walks and two strikeouts. All of Mahle's blemishes came in the fifth inning. Former Reds star Jay Bruce slugged a two-run home run to left field on a first-pitch curveball.

"It's frustrating to lose, but I make a mistake on a curveball and he hits a home run," Mahle said. "If I don't let that happen, we're winning the game, and when the relievers come in, we're up. When people put it on the hitters, it's funny because I'm the one giving up the runs. They've scored plenty of runs for us in games I've pitched terrible. It goes both ways, I think."

Cincinnati was in the game to the very end. Votto worked a two-out walk to put runners on first and second for Suarez, representing the potential go-ahead run. But Hector Neris closed it with a strikeout.

"You want those opportunities as many times as you can get them," Bell said. "We believe in our guys that if we keep getting those opportunities, we'll come through in those situations."

Despite the Reds' struggles in close games, Votto was among those optimistic about a team that has had very few blowout losses or long losing streaks since a 1-8 start. The NL Central remains tightly bunched together with no one running away with a huge lead.

"We have had those one-run games, but it doesn't feel like we're an unlucky team or we're a club that can't execute," Votto said. "We just go through stretches at times like that. At some point, I'd like to think by the end of the season ... come September, we're going to be in competitive baseball and playing really close games, I think, we'll show that."

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.