The Second Half
Baseball is back! Unfortunately, someone forgot to inform the Reds. The Reds played host to division rival, the Pittsburgh Pirates over the weekend. Both teams came out of the break playing some of the best baseball in the National League. One team continued the trend, the other did not. Now, winners of nine straight games, the Pirates brought their brooms to Cincinnati and completed a three-game sweep of the Reds with little to no resistance.
The Pirates started the season looking like legitimate contenders to play October baseball. After a hot start, they fizzled out and gave the Reds some hope that they might not finish with the worst record in the NL Central. Pittsburgh had different plans. After nine straight wins, including a five-game sweep over the Brewers, the Pirates are starting to think October may not just be a dream anymore, but rather a reality.
After an unbelievably hot second half of the first half, the Reds looked defeated and hopeless. In the three-game set they were outscored 27 to five, and never had a real chance at winning. While it ultimately does not matter, because making the playoffs would require a miracle, it is not fun to watch a team trending upwards display no fight against a division rival.
Tyler Mahle took the mound in game one. Mahle has shown signs that he might very well be the next ace of this Reds club. With a June that could have earned him Pitcher of the Month if a man named Jon Lester did not exist, expectations were high. Mahle allowed two runs in the first five innings. It was not an ideal start, but not the worst. However, when the sixth inning arrived, the Pirates brought the bats. Mahle was shelled for an additional four runs including two long balls.
After the six-run deficit, the Reds seemed to have given up. Jesse Winker knocked in Scooter Gennett with a sixth-inning double, but the writing was on the wall. The bullpen did not fare much better. Between the four relievers that made an appearance Friday night, they allowed six runs, five earned, to match Mahle’s poor performance. It should be noted that David Hernandez recorded an out on the only batter he faced. Lorenzen’s run was unearned, but he walked the first two batters so he is not entirely in the clear.
The team retreated to the locker room, hoping it was just a bump in the road. They would soon find out that they were not trying to get over a bump, but had to climb a mountain to win the series.
In game two of the series, Anthony DeSclafani hoped to right the ship. The Pirates made sure that they remained the captains of the ship. The score may be closer than game one, but the feeling was all the same. Corey Dickerson put the Pirates on the board early, with a solo home run in the third inning. Pittsburgh would continue to add one run in each of the following three innings. Josh Bell singled in a run, Dickerson hit his second shot of the night, then pitcher Nick Kingham of all people, helped himself with an RBI single.
Backup catcher Curt Casali gave the Reds a glimmer of hope with a two-run home run in the seventh inning, but just as in game one, the scoring came too little too late. The bullpen has been a key to the Reds success this season. But for the second game in a row, did not perform as expected. Two of the top arms in the Reds’ bullpen were responsible for half of the runs. Lorenzen allowed two runs on three hits, and Jared Hughes allowed an additional run on a wild pitch in the eighth inning.
With two forgettable games in the books, game three was the Reds’ shot to redeem themselves. This game, while almost pointless as far as the 2018 season goes, would serve as an idea of how real this team is. Hoping for a fight, a sign of life, the Reds once again fell flat.
Completing the Sweep, For the Wrong Team
Game three, the redemption game that ended up being the worst by far. Matt Harvey was tasked with giving the Reds at least one win in their first series of the second half. Even more important, Harvey had scouts in the stands eager to see if he could be the final piece to the World Series puzzle.
When the Reds acquired Harvey, it was solely with the intention of dealing him when July 31 came around. In his last few starts, it seemed the Reds may land a middle tier project prospect for Harvey. While that may not sound glorious, it would be a nice haul for what was essentially the corpse of Devin Mesoraco.
Harvey tried to increase his trade value Sunday. He did the exact opposite. Harvey was tagged for eight runs in 3 2/3 innings, his worst start since joining the club. The brutal outing started as early as the third batter of the game. Gregory Polanco sent a ball just to the right of the smokestacks to give his team a two-run lead. The second inning was not kind to Harvey. Max Moroff drove in a run before Dickerson continued his destruction of Cincinnati pitching, immediately followed by a solo shot from Starling Marte.
After a solo shot from Sean Rodriguez and another run-scoring single from Polanco, Harvey made his way for to the dugout. Jackson Stephens came in for 3 1/3 innings of relief and helped him forget his Friday night four-run experience, allowing just one run in relief. The bullpen was solid, but as in the first two games, the game was all but over. The Reds eventually dropped the game 9-2, completing the sweep, and a forgettable start to the second half.
The Bright Spot
There was at least one positive in the series, Jesse Winker continues to put up numbers worthy of Rookie of the Year considerations. He collected three hits in four at-bats Friday night, including the lone RBI. Saturday night he went two for four with a run scored out of the five hole. Sunday he did not record a hit, but managed to find his way on base with a walk, eventually leading to a run.
Winker is now at an even .300 on the season, and only appears to be trending upwards. He is slashing .458/536/646 in July. An absurd slash line for anyone, however, his is a bit more interesting, considering he is a rookie that was viewed as a pure contact hitter.
Monday is a new day. The homestand still has another seven games left and the Reds are still one of the hotter teams in the league despite the sweep. The Reds will look to bounce back against another division rival in the Cardinals. The Reds have had an issue beating St. Louis this season with a 3-10 record. Luis Castillo will hope to find himself as well, as he gets the ball to start the series Tuesday night. The Reds were heading in the right direction if they want to prove that last weekend was a fluke, winning the series, or at least putting up a fight is a must.
“From Our Haus to Yours”