7 games through this long dreadful 10 game road trip and the Reds have taken some hits to the mouth, are staggered and need a little regrouping to salvage at least some good news going into the final leg of the series in Atlanta. Thus far the trip has netted a 1-6 record with a little sprinkling of bad breaks, a dusting of lackluster performance, one really long game, and a bad taste in the mouth of Reds’ fans. Starting the road trip only 1.5 games behind the Cardinals in the standings, the Redlegs now sit in third behind both the Brewers and Cardinals 4 games out. These next three bouts in the ATL could go a long way toward getting the Reds’ collective head back in the game.
On to the ups and downs of a crappy roadtrip…
Jay Bruce– Steve mentioned it in his Braves series preview earlier today, but it bears repeating. Holy cow! Brucie has been hitting the ball obscenely well the past week. 12 for 27 with 4 homers and 12 RBI and pretty much the only Reds player that has looked awake at the dish. Jay also provided the spark in the only win so far in the roadtrip with a bases-loaded double in the 9th in the 6-3 win against the Phils Tuesday. It overjoys me to see Bruce do well as I am sure it does everyone in the Reds organization. Consistent good performance from Bruce at the plate goes a long way to making the team more formidable, now if only others could perform at the same time…..
The Bullpen– Saying the pitching has been bad during the roadtrip would be an understatement, but you couldn’t pin a lot of it on the bullpen. The likes of Carlos Fisher, Matt Maloney, and Sam LeCure have provided sterling long relief out of the pen as Reds starters have faltered early. In particular, Fisher’s extended effort in everyone’s favorite 19 inning game against the Phillies Wednesday was great even though he allowed the walk-off sac fly for the loss. Running out the final 5.2 innings allowing only 4 hits and throwing 95 pitches is a Herculean effort for a reliever. Got to also shout out for Jose Arredondo who provided 4 innings of 1 run relief work in the prior 7 days and has been very solid since joining the Reds off injury.
Left Field– We finally saw Dusty make a change to get Jonny Gomes out of the lineup. It’s been about a week and a half since Gomes started in left field and we have seen a mixture of Fred Lewis and Chris Heisey in instead. While the Heisey/Lewis platoon combo isn’t setting the world on fire, I am just glad the change was made just for the sake of the change. Sticking with a player, while it is good some times, isn’t always the play. Lewis/Heisey in left may not be the full answer but it does increase defensive capability and allows Gomes to clear his head. Maybe shortstop is the next position for a shake up…
Starting Pitching – Reds starting pitching on this roadtrip is carrying an abysmal 8.47 ERA. Back-to-back terrible outings from Edinson Volquez (2.2 IP 7 H 6 ER) on Sunday and Bronson Arroyo (2.2 IP 10 H 9 ER) on Monday lowlighted the stretch. To add injury to insult…Homer Bailey, he of the only rotation stability found on the Reds, is officially heading to the DL with a shoulder capsule sprain. I have a really bad feeling about the effectiveness of the rotation through the end of the year. I just do not know who can step up.
Offense– Jay Bruce not withstanding, the offense has been putrid during the roadtrip as well. With a slash line of .225/.287/.338 with 5 homers (not bad until you consider Bruce is responsible for 4 of them) and 22 runs put on the board. Particularly plaguing is the struggle of the Reds batting with runners in scoring position. While coming on slightly the final couple games of the Phillies series, during the series in Cleveland the Reds hit .142 (3-21) with RISP.
Focus/Luck– I say focus and luck because they are two factors that are very important to winning, one a team can control and another they cannot. The Reds aren’t fairing well in either. The lack of focus is exemplified by the Brandon Phillips‘ baserunning brain fart that cost the Reds in their 19 innings affair. During the 11th inning, reliever JC Romero was brought in with Phillips on first. After walking Votto to put Phillips on second, Phillips completely forgot he was playing a tied extra inning ballgame and was chatting it up with friend Jimmy Rollins. That’s all fine and well, except this lack of awareness allowed Romero to whirl and pick Phillips off at second by a mile. If things proceed as they did, Phillips would have been walked in to score as Romero walked the next two batters, but instead he was sent to the bench and the inning ended. 8 innings later the Reds lost a game they could have won. There are moments throughout each season where the bounce of a ball or the focus to capitalize on a situation can win games that should be lost and vice versa. Unfortunately for the Reds, they are on the not-so-good side of that dichotomy at the moment.