WASHINGTON -- The Reds had scored a run against the Nationals in the fourth inning Sunday afternoon, but the bases were still loaded with no outs when Tucker Barnhart stepped to the plate. Putting together hits with runners on base has helped Cincinnati recover from its lousy start and become
WASHINGTON -- The Reds had scored a run against the Nationals in the fourth inning Sunday afternoon, but the bases were still loaded with no outs when Tucker Barnhart stepped to the plate. Putting together hits with runners on base has helped Cincinnati recover from its lousy start and become one of the National League's toughest offenses.
In this case, though, Barnhart popped out and Tanner Roark retired the next two batters, keeping the Reds one run back of the Nationals. Cincinnati didn't put another runner in scoring position, wasting Luis Castillo's solid start and dropping the four-game series with a 2-1 loss at Nationals Park. The Reds have lost five of their six games since taking three of four games against the Phillies.
"It feels like we [left runners on base] early on a lot," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "We kind of got away from it finally. It was more rare. As of late here, we've had a few of those days where we could've taken a lead or added on, and we didn't.
"When you step in the batter's box you're getting 100 percent, because those are the numbers that make players' careers. It's not from a lack of effort. It's just from a lack of execution."
While Cincy's rotation has been inconsistent, the offense has scored 461 runs with runners on base, the second most in the NL. The Reds, though, are hitting .240 and averaging 3.5 runs per game since the All-Star break.
Riggleman said more players need to produce with Scott Schebler and Jesse Winker on the disabled list, but their absences were felt Sunday, especially with Joey Votto out of the lineup. The Reds also traded Adam Duvall, who hit 15 homers in 105 games with Cincinnati this season, to the Braves on July 31. The Reds only scratched out one run Sunday, despite seven hits.
Castillo allowed a solo homer to Matt Wieters in the second inning before Bryce Harper's double in the third inning scored Adam Eaton. The righty finished with just those two runs allowed over 5 1/3 innings, striking out three against two walks and six hits. Castillo, who said he recently adjusted his arm angle to improve his fastball, has a 2.01 ERA over his past four outings.
"I've been working hard with the pitching coach," Castillo said through a translator. "That's the key: Just throw your stuff and believe you can do it."
Roark countered Castillo by permitting one run over seven innings.
The Reds got four straight singles from Phillip Ervin, Scooter Gennett, Eugenio Suarez and Mason Williams to plate a run in the fourth before their offense went stale.
"That's when we need to capitalize," Riggleman said, "and we didn't."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
With two outs in the ninth inning, Votto, who's hitting .287 with 52 RBIs, pinch-hit for Barnhart with a chance to start a rally. In Votto's previous at-bat, on Saturday, Ryan Madson struck him on the right leg with a 96.2-mph fastball that resulted in Votto screaming at Madson and tension building between the clubs.
• Madson's intent on HBP unclear to Votto
But Kelvin Herrera struck out Votto on six pitches Sunday to end the game.
The Reds begin a three-game series against the Mets at Citi Field on Monday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Homer Bailey will take the mound after allowing two runs over eight innings against the Tigers on July 31. The Reds, who have lost 11 of their past 13 games at Citi Field, haven't provided Bailey much run support, as the right-hander is 1-8. Noah Syndergaard will start for the Mets.
Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington.