Reds bullpen struggles reveal the need for strong starting pitching

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Fernando Cruz.
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Fernando Cruz. / Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

You remember that thing that Reds fans were worried about before the season? Well, it was front and center in Tuesday night's blowout loss to the Chicago Cubs.

The Cincinnati Reds lost the game 12-5, but starter Luis Cessa pitched very well. Kudos to the right-hander who didn't have much time to build up his endurance this spring because of his participation in the World Baseball Classic.

Cessa went 5.1 innings while allowing just one run four hits. The 30-year-old did walk three batters while striking out just two, and the defense behind Cessa was excellent. But when he left the game in the sixth inning, the Reds were clinging to a two-run lead.

Reds bullpen struggles reveals the need for strong starting pitching.

Ian Gibaut entered for Luis Cessa with one out and one on in the top of the sixth inning. Gibaut promptly gave up a base hit to the first batter he faced, and Patrick Wisdom scored narrowing the lead to just one run. Gibaut rebounded nicely and struck out the next two batters.

Then came the dreaded seventh inning. Neither Buck Farmer or Reiver Sanmartin were able to even record one out during their time on the bump. Farmer allowed three runs on two hits and Sanmartin surrendered three runs as well.

Joel Kuhnel was then called upon for the first time in 2023. The right-hander at least helped the Reds get out of the inning. He forced a ground ball double play that scored a run, then allowed an RBI single. Kuhnel finally got out of the inning by inducing a ground ball out from Cubs infielder Nico Hoerner.

As a whole, the Cincinnati Reds bullpen allowed 10 runs on 12 hits while issuing three walks in punching out five batters. All of this occurred in less than four innings of work. This is, quite simply, the biggest weakness on this year's Reds team.

Reds starters have got to go deep into ball games.

Fair or not, the reality of the situation is that the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation is going to have the carry the load. Hunter Greene gets his second start of the season today, and one would think that he'll be more efficient than his last outing that saw him go just 3.1 innings.

Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft turned in solid performances during their first starts of the year. Connor Overton, however, struggled. The Reds starters have got to be good enough to go at least five innings, and many would argue at least six.

The Reds bullpen isn't awful, but after Overton went just four innings in his first start, Cincinnati's relief corps was asked to account for 26 outs over the last two games. That's not a recipe for success.

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