3 takeaways from Reds' Ohio Cup defeat

August 7th, 2020

It’s only 13 games for the Reds, but in this unconventional season, that’s almost 22 percent of the 60-game season already behind them and a 5-8 record doesn’t sit well.

Thursday’s 13-0 loss to Cleveland at Progressive Field, part of three straight losses to drop the Ohio Cup series, underscored the trouble spots. The lineup is underperforming and the bullpen isn’t getting it done at all.

“I think you have a good idea of what it’s going to take to make the playoffs,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “I can’t speak for anybody else but myself, but I’ve looked at them numerous times. I know where we are. I know where we have to go to get where we want to be. It’s tough. It’s been a tough start.”

Before the game, president of baseball operations Dick Williams wasn’t looking to make drastic changes.

“I have not wavered in my belief that we have the best team in our division,” said Williams, who oversaw $166 million spent in the offseason on five free agents in an effort to contend. “The results haven’t converted yet, but we have all the confidence in the world that we’ve got a good team. We know time is of the essence. I believe these guys will get hot real soon and start playing up to their potential.”

Here are three takeaways for the Reds after the Ohio Cup:

Trouble scoring
Cleveland has the best pitching staff ERA in the Majors (2.05) and it flattened Reds hitters like a truck this week. Since Eugenio Suárez hit a solo homer in the fourth inning of Tuesday’s 4-2 loss, the club has been held scoreless for 23 consecutive innings while notching only eight hits as it had its hands full with starters Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco.

Against Carrasco, Cincinnati managed just one hit -- Jesse Winker’s leadoff double in the second inning. Carrasco retired 14 of the next 15 batters, before a pair of two-out walks and two wild pitches. The rally was snuffed out when Winker was called out on strikes by home-plate umpire Jerry Meals. He argued the call, but manager David Bell was the one ejected by Meals after he came out to defend his hitter.

Bell isn’t considering changes to the offense that ranks 28th in the Majors with a .198 team average.

“Keep playing them, keep giving them at-bats and stay with it. That's all you can do,” Bell said. “We love our players. There's no question we have to score runs and play better in every way and we will. I believe that, we all believe that, we just keep going out and playing.”

Bullpen is prone to walks
The Reds' bullpen is ranked 29th with a 7.65 ERA, it has blown three of four save chances and it is tied for third with 11 homers allowed. But walks have exacerbated the struggles. Over the last six games and 16 2/3 innings, the relievers have issued 12 walks. A 10-run bottom of the seventh inning against relievers José De León and Cody Reed turned a 3-0 game into a rout. De León, who worked a perfect sixth, fell apart in the seventh with eight runs allowed, including four walks. Backup infielder Matt Davidson was summoned to pitch a scoreless bottom of the eighth.

Conversely, this same bullpen leads the Majors with 12.60 strikeouts per nine innings.

“We’ve given up a few too many home runs. But for the most part, the expected ERAs, the expected FIPs, we have the biggest gap between that and actual ERAs in all of baseball in the way that would favor us, meaning the expected FIPs are a lot lower,” Williams said. “The performance can and should be there.”

The rotation pulls its weight
Cincinnati’s rotation is ranked third with a 2.57 ERA and is second with 93 strikeouts. In the first two losses, Tyler Mahle gave up one hit over six scoreless innings and Tejay Antone allowed one run and two hits over 4 1/3 innings in his first big league start.

Thursday’s starting pitcher -- Luis Castillo -- gave up three runs, four hits and four walks over five innings while striking out nine. José Ramírez gave Cleveland a 1-0 lead in the first inning by hitting a 3-2 fastball to right field for a solo homer.

Castillo’s night eroded in the fifth after a two-out walk to César Hernández, who trucked home on Ramírez’s RBI double to right field. Francisco Lindor added an RBI single to right field.

Bell didn’t believe getting routed was a wake-up call with only 47 games remaining.

“Our team doesn't need a wake-up call,” Bell said. “Our team just needs to play better and we will. No one likes to get beat, whether it's a one-run game or by any score, they all count the same. We hate it. We come out the next day and we have to figure out a way to play better. That's what we're focused on doing and we will.”