The Cincinnati Reds dropped all three games in their weekend series against the Milwaukee Brewers. Losing the three games by a combined five runs is a tough pill to swallow for the now-second place Reds. Cincinnati stands at 50-44, trailing the Milwaukee Brewers by two games in the NL Central.
On July 6, the Reds moved to 49-39 and held a three-game lead over their rivals from Milwaukee. After dropping five of six games to the Brewers in two series surrounding the All-Star Break the Reds now trail by two and have been sent soul searching.
It is not just that they lost, it is the manner in which each loss occurred. The story of the Reds’ season had been their starting pitching. Cincinnati had been winning despite their below-average rotation because of how outstanding the offense had been. Then, as soon as the Brewers show up in the opposite dugout, the offense vanished and the starting rotation threw some of its best innings all season.
In game one of the series, Graham Ashcraft continued his stellar streak since returning from the injured list. Ashcraft threw six innings of one run baseball, giving up just five hits and two walks in the process. The bullpen picked up right where he left off and shutout the Brewers in the following three innings. Unfortunately, the offense could not hold up its end of the bargain and the Reds dropped a classic pitching duel 1-0.
Game two featured a similar story. Andrew Abbott got back to his dominant ways after his first rough start of his young career (against these Milwaukee Brewers just over a week prior). Abbott also went six innings and gave up two runs, both on solo home runs, on just three hits and two walks. The bullpen was solid once again, as they gave up one run in three more innings of work. Cincinnati dropped another tight one 3-0.
Game three featured an offensive explosion, by recent Reds standards anyway. The Reds lost the series finale 4-3, but the pitching was outstanding once again. Starter Ben Lively continued his solid season, giving up just one run in a light four innings of work. The bullpen did its best on a long day and gave up three runs in five innings.
Two weeks ago, if anyone had predicted the Reds would give up just eight runs in a three-game series to the Milwaukee Brewers, a sweep would have unfathomable. The Reds’ offense had been so hot, but in such a sustainable way, that at least one of those games would have had to go in their favor, right?
The offense legitimately went into a turtle shell unlike anything seen in Major League Baseball history. Check out this stat from ESPN Stats & Info.
The Reds offense and its legion of exciting young players had been setting team records here and there, but in positive ways. Now, they have joined the record books in a fashion nobody will be proud of.
The Reds were due for some regression and, unfortunately, it came at the worst possible time. With nine games against the Brewers in the month of July, the Reds had a chance to bury Milwaukee and force them into being sellers at the trade deadline. Instead, Corbin Burnes and Devin Williams have made the last eight days a living nightmare for Cincinnati hitters, and the Reds have all of the pressure on themselves now.
Who is next?
There is no time to dwell on the past for Cincinnati. Coming into town are the San Francisco Giants who own a 52-41 record and have won five of their last six games. If the Reds do not win the NL Central, the Wild Card will be their route to the postseason. Well, the Giants will be one of the teams jockeying for a Wild Card spot as well.
Hot on the heels of the Giants are the Arizona Diamondbacks who are currently 52-42 and also squarely in the mix for an NL Wild Card berth. They will come to Great American Ballpark after the Giants’ four-game series.
This stretch will tell a lot about how real the Reds’ playoff hopes are in 2023. Put the Brewers series in the rearview mirror and get back to winnings ways against two excellent NL West clubs. Do that and they are right back in the thick of the playoff race. Continue the offensive cold streak? June will look like just a flash in the pan and Cincinnati will be looking forward to 2024 in a hurry.
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Featured image courtesy of Reds.com
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