CINCINNATI — “It’s weird.”
That was Reds manager Bryan Price’s synopsis of what’s going on with his pitchers. He could have been talking about the 5-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates Wednesday night as well.
Six batters were hit by pitches. Two players and both managers were ejected. Four home runs were hit.
But in the end, it came down to the same thing: A bullpen failure by the Reds. Both members of the closer committee failed. Tony Cingrani gave up the tying run in the eighth. Ross Ohlendorf gave up the game winner in the ninth.
The Reds have had 11 save chances this year. They’ve converted three.
If they were perfect in save chances, they’d be 21-13, instead of 14-20.
Being perfect in save chances is a lot to ask. Remember, you can blow a save in the sixth, seventh and eighth, as well as the ninth. But if the bullpen were even mediocre instead of dreadful, the Reds would be around .500.
It doesn’t seem like it will turn around any time soon, since really no one in the bullpen is throwing well.
Cingrani was throwing the best. Price chose to use him in the eighth to face the heart of the Pirate order. He struck out Andrew McCutchen on three pitches and got Gregory Polanco to fly to right. But Josh Harrison, the Cincinnati kid, hit one out to center to make it 4-4. Harrison was only in the game because Starling Marte had been ejected.
“It’s been a weird season so far,” Price said. “Tony’s thrown the ball really, really well in particularly of late. It seems like right now, if we get a ball up in the zone and the opposing team puts it in play, it goes out of the ballpark. It’s not a base hit to right or the middle. It’s a homer.
“It’s phenomenon like I haven’t seen.”
Thirty-six home runs — 18 by the Reds, 18 by the opposition — were hit on the nine-game homestand. The Pirates hit four Wednesday — three off starter Alfredo Simon, the only three hits he allowed. Great American Ball Park is a hitter’s park.
“I keep track of hard-hit balls,” Price said “They only had a small handful, as did we. But their’s went out of the ballpark. ... Certainly that happens sometimes in this ball park.
“But the ballpark wasn’t to blame. We’re a better pitching staff than we’ve shown.”
Price may still believe that, but the numbers — for the bullpen, particularly — say otherwise. A reliever took the loss in all five losses on the homestand.
The Reds were hoping that things would get better for the bullpen when Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani return, allowing the club to move some pitchers from the current rotation to the ‘pen. But Bailey and DeSclafani are probably each a month or so away.
I’ve been writing all year that the Reds should look at bringing up some of the young arms from the minors. My guess is until they do that, things will stay weird.
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist. This column represents his opinion.