CINCINNATI -- "Why can't I do that every time?"
That was Scott Feldman's reaction to striking out the first five hitters of the game Monday night in the Reds' 5-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
But it could have been Feldman's reaction to the night in general, as in, "Why can't I go six strong innings every time?"
Feldman did that Monday, allowing one run on four hits. He stuck out nine and walked two. If the Reds could get starts like that on even a semi-regular basis, this team could contend. The bullpen and the offense have been going that good.
"He gave us a chance to take a lead," manager Bryan Price said. "He put up a zero. He was locked in. He was able to get through their lineup that first time through."
That's been missing. The Reds' starters have the worst ERA in the majors leagues (5.81) and have thrown the least innings, just under five a game. Feldman was the first starter to get through six innings in eight games.
Feldman is the ace-by-default. If he -- or anyone, for that matter -- could go on a roll, the Reds might be able to hold the line until Homer Bailey, Brandon Finnegan and Anthony DeSclafani get healthy.
If not, it's going to be a long summer on the riverfront.
Feldman was coming off an awful start. He allowed seven runs (five earned) in 2 2/3 innings in a 7-5 loss in Chicago.
"You've got to have a short memory in this game," he said. "Baseball is one of those funny games. You have some good and some bad. You've got to try to battle through the other ones. It's a long season."
Feldman had a great breaking ball, as the strikeouts indicate, but he did battle to keep the lead. With a runner on third in the sixth, former Red Edwin Encarnation hit a 428-foot shot, just foul.
"That almost gave me a heart attack," Feldman said. "I would have hated to see the lead surrendered right there. I probably went in one too many times in a row. Luckily, it hooked foul."
Feldman gave a 5-1 lead to the bullpen. That's how the Reds saw this season playing out. It hasn't lately -- they lost eight of nine -- largely because the starters have been so bad.
"Every time we go out and start a game, we're trying to go as deep as we can," Feldman said. "There's never any additional pressure. We're in the big leagues. We're trying to do our best and pitch as many innings as we can."
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at email@example.com