The Reds' week-long losing streak was a distant runner-up on the mind of manager David Bell when he rushed onto the field to argue with the umpires Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium. Bell was hotter than a lit match because he watched his player -- second baseman Jonathan India -- get beaned by an errant Jack Flaherty pitch and then had his bench warned to prevent any retaliation.
Bell was ejected for getting heated with umpires as Cincinnati dropped its seventh consecutive game with a 5-2 loss to the Cardinals. In exactly one week, the Reds have gone from a first-place team to last in the National League Central with a 9-12 record.
"My only concern was Jonathan and our players and protecting our players and making sure he was OK. I think he's OK, first of all," said Bell, who has been ejected 12 times since 2019. "We'll continue to keep a close eye on him, but I really believe he's going to be fine. I was over there checking and got word that we got warned."
Batting for Cincinnati with one out against Flaherty as his team trailed, 4-0, India was struck on the side of his helmet by a 1-1 fastball that registered at 94 mph. He appeared to be OK but was clearly agitated about being hit by a pitch.
The four umpires convened a meeting and issued warnings to both benches. That brought Bell out to argue with crew chief Joe West, who eventually ejected the manager. The argument continued for several minutes.
"For me, this is all about about the Reds, our players, how we go about it," Bell said. "Protecting our players, this has nothing to do with the Cardinals. I respect the Cardinals. It has nothing to do with anything like that. It's all about us."
Flaherty, who gave up one earned run and three hits with six strikeouts over seven innings, immediately showed remorse for the errant pitch to India, which appeared accidental. India took first base after being evaluated by trainer Tomas Vera. It was the second time this season he was hit in the head by a pitch after it happened on April 7 vs. the Pirates against starter Chad Kuhl.
When Flaherty made a pickoff throw to first base on India, the rookie got fired up and said something to the St Louis ace.
“When stuff like that happens, it sucks. I mean, that thing got away," Flaherty said of the pitch. "You know, I had really good command all day and flew open. That thing just ran up and hit him in the head. I felt really bad. I understand his frustration, stuff like that. You never want to see that."
Bell has previously rushed to the defense of his players on multiple occasions when they are hit by pitches -- whether it was on purpose or accidental.
"He has our backs. All of our coaches have our backs, we have each other’s backs. It’s amazing," said left fielder Jesse Winker, who extended his season-high hitting streak to 10 games with a fourth-inning single and slugged a leadoff homer to left field against Flaherty in the seventh inning.
By the time Bell left, Reds starting pitcher Luis Castillo was already out of the game after he pitched five innings and allowed four earned runs and six hits -- including a pair of Tyler O'Neill solo home runs to center field. Castillo is 1-2 with a 6.29 ERA in his five starts this season.
"If I feel frustrated, then that affects me more mentally," Castillo said via translator Jorge Merlos. "It’s not good for me if I feel frustrated. I’m always thinking positively that I’m going to get out of this or the team is going to get out of this as well."
In the eighth inning, the Reds inched closer with an RBI single by pinch-hitter Tyler Naquin to make it a three-run game. Against closer Alex Reyes in the ninth, Cincinnati loaded the bases with two outs before Tucker Barnhart grounded out to first base to end the game.
"It’s a 162-game season and you’re going to go through winning streaks and you’re going to go through losing streaks," Winker said. "We’ve just got to keep fighting and just continue to pick each other up. It will turn.”
The road trip does not get easier, however, as the Reds will head to Los Angeles for a three-game series vs. the Dodgers that starts Monday. Cincinnati was swept at Chavez Ravine its last time there in 2019 and lost five of six games to the Dodgers overall that season.
"Everyone is staying together," Bell said. "Everyone who has been around this game has been through these things before where you go through a stretch where you're not winning games and there's nothing about it that's acceptable or fun or anything like that.
"But you get tested in these times and when you pass the test -- usually it's about staying together -- and you keep competing and you never give up, you get rewarded. We saw it happen with our team last year. If anything, we're passing the tests even more this year."