The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game
On a day when the usually stellar Cincinnati Reds defense fell apart, the bullpen struggled again to do anything positive, and nary a single Reds hitter reached base more than once, the one memorable thing event witnessed Sunday against the Cleveland Indians was the sound of the solo homer off the bat of Marlon Byrd. Byrd's 9th dinger of the season was absolutely crushed off Trevor Bauer, who otherwise held the Reds offense in complete check for 7.2 IP, and the blast was enough to get the everyday LF's average a tick back over the Mendoza line at .204.
When small victories are the only victories, treat them as victories.
Honorable Mentions are due to: Ryan Mattheus, who pitched a pair of scoreless innings despite some shaky defense behind him and a jam or two that needed dodging; Jay Bruce, who made a splendid diving catch to end the 8th and leave the bases loaded; Burke Badenhop, who got an out to lower his season ERA under 8; Bryan Price, who neither got ejected nor dropped a soundbite for the ages; and JJ Hoover, who was somehow dinged with zero earned runs allowed despite an awful outing and a gift from the Cleveland official scorer.
- Raisel Iglesias labored through the 1st and 2nd, yet he managed to escape without yielding a run in either thanks to his ability to strand runners. That - and his defense - stopped working in the Bottom of the 3rd, however. Carlos Santana doubled to the corner in RF to lead off the inning, and after Brandon Moss took a walk two batters later, David Murphy smacked a sharp single to Joey Votto's right that, if fielded, would've been a solid chance at an inning-ending double play. Instead, the ball kicked off Votto's glove when during his patented fall-back attempt at fielding, and Santana motored around to score the game's first run while Moss moved to 3B. Nick Swisher followed with a grounder right at Brandon Phillips at 2B that again looked like a chance at an inning-ending DP, but Phillips booted it, the Reds got no outs, and Moss scored. Fortunately, Iglesias got out of the inning without further damage, but he sat a 84 pitches after just 3 IP, and his day was done. Reds trailed, 2-0.
- The Bottom of the 6th was a half-inning as indicative of the 2015 Reds as any I've watched all season. JJ Hoover took the hill, and he promptly let the leadoff hitter reach when Yan Gomes' comebacker clanked off his own glove. Chinnie Losenhall then smacked a grounder right at Phillips, and for the third time in the game a would-be double play ball was booted, but at least Phillips managed to scramble to get the out at 1B. Hoover then walked the next two batters to load the bases, served up a meatball that Santana hit nearly 400 ft (but just a foot or two foul from a grand slam), got Santana to pop-out, and then got Michael Brantley to hit a grounder to Votto that should have ended the inning. Instead, Votto's diving stop went for naught, as Hoover hustled over to cover 1B and simply airballed a completely reasonable throw from Votto that allowed a pair of Indians to score. Reds trailed, 4-0.
- Oh, hey! Offense! Kinda. Marlon Byrd blasted a solo homer off Trevor Bauer in the Top of the 7th in an otherwise 20 second offensive inning, but it was decidedly better than everything else the Reds' bats had provided to that point. Reds trailed, 4-1.
- AROLDIS CHAPMAN SIGHTING! Chapman took the mound for the Bottom of the 8th, and he looked rusty. Jason Kipnis doubled off him to the wall in CF, and he scored a batter later on a single up the middle from Santana. Two walks, a deep fly out, and a great catch from Bruce later, only a single run scored, though. Reds trailed, 5-1.
- Indians closer Cody Allen got the nod for the Top of the 9th, and while he got Todd Frazier to strike out to begin the inning, a walk to Bruce and a double to the wall from Pena followed, the latter of which drove in the Reds RF from 1B. That, unfortunately, was all the Reds could muster, and they lost to the Indians, 5-2.
- The Reds entered play Sunday hitting just .184/.284/.316 with Runners in Scoring Position in 2015. Whether that's a specific skill, just luck, or some form of alien ability unrecognizable to the human eye, the fact is that the Reds are awful at making things happen in those situations so far this season. The .184 average is the worst in baseball in that scenario, the .284 OBP is the worst in baseball in that scenario, the .316 SLG is the worst in baseball in that scenario, and yes, the .600 OPS is the worst in baseball in that scenario.
- That last Other Note? That's a big factor into why the Reds entered play on Sunday averaging the 3rd fewest runs per game in all of baseball at 3.76.
- Eight losses in a row, seven games under .500, and nine games back in the NL Central is more than enough to start thinking about a shake 'em up, as Aaron did last week. With that in mind, FanGraphs' Jeff Sullivan took a specific look at what the Reds could get in return for two of their biggest trade chips.
- Skip Schumaker came to the plate with Kris Negron on 3B with less than 2 outs and failed to grittily drive him in. Also, today's lineup included Skip, Negron, Brennan Boesch, and Brayan Pena, none of whom were supposed to be regulars in 2015 and three of whom probably wouldn't be on any other team's 25 man roster. Couple that with Byrd entering play with a sub .200 average, Phillips' surprising pair of miscues, the worst bullpen in baseball, a twenty-one man roster, a rookie starter who didn't pitch at all for almost two years and, well, The Aristocrats.
- I said "twenty-one man roster" despite only Johnny Cueto, Billy Hamilton, and Devin Mesoraco being the only Reds semi-sidelined due to injury. Why? Aroldis Chapman hadn't pitched in seven full days, and had thrown just one inning in ten days. Thankfully, he got to the mound in the Bottom of the 8th, and - wouldn't ya know - his rust showed as he allowed a double off the wall, loaded the bases thanks to a pair of walks, and allowed an earned run that was a diving Bruce catch away from being at least three.
- The good news? The Reds get to host the awful Colorado Rockies at home beginning tomorrow, meaning the eight game losing streak has a light at the end of the tunnel.
- The bad news? Jason Marquis will be the Reds starting pitcher tomorrow against Colorado. I can't even.