Thursday, May 18, 2006

Miss a Week, Miss a Lot ... Reds Slumping in May; Lose Five Straight

When I last wrote about the Reds on Friday, May 5th, they were coming off a lopsided 7-1 loss in Arizona at the hands of the surging Diamondbacks. Saturday's game was slightly better but still was notched as a loss (3-1) to Arizona once again. Staving off a sweep, the Reds rebounded for a 9-8 win on Sunday (5/7) to salvage a bad road trip. Returning home looked to be the medicine this team needed, and the Washington Nationals could be a great candidate to motivate this team into action.

After Monday's off day, the Reds lost again behind the arm of Brandon Claussen in an ugly 7-1 loss on Tuesday. Back-to-back days (Wednesday and Thursday, 5/10 and 5/11) brought back-to-back wins (9-6 and 5-4) for the first time since the brief St. Louis series a week earlier. When the weekend rolled around, the phenomenal Phillies were riding a big winning streak (losing only one of their last ten games) ... and that trend did not stop against the Reds. Friday's 8-4 loss featured a solid (if unspectacular) start by Elizardo Ramirez and a bullpen blow-up, Saturday's 2-0 loss was a tough pill to swallow (Jon Lieber pitched 6 2/3 perfect innings against a great start by fifth starter Dave Williams), and Sunday's extra-inning 2-1 loss (with a wasted quality start by Brandon Claussen) could have gone either way.

Thank goodness for off days because this team needed one on Monday, 5/15. The last 11 games (all during the month of May) had seen only four wins versus an ugly seven losses; however, the Reds managed to stay only one game behind the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals. Of course, given that this is being written early Thursday morning (a few days later), a couple more games have taken place. If the records meant anything, the first half of this road trip (against NL Central patsies, Pittsburgh Pirates) should have been a walk in the park. Or not.

The last two games -- a 9-3 whuppin' and an equally ugly 7-2 loss on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively -- have nothing short of "gag me" excruciating pain. The offense is gone, the pitching attrocious ... what positive things can I possibly find out of these losses? Starts by Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo, the team's two best starters, were awful. Deservedly, both starters also notched the losses.

Mercifully, the Reds-Pirates series ends today (Thursday, 5/18) during a business day special in Pittsburgh. The Reds still hold a winning record (23-17) versus the awful record of the Pirates (13-27), but this Cincinnati club will be lucky not to be swept once again if the offense doesn't come around soon. Dave Williams (2-3, 6.32 - getting his act together lately) faces Victor Santos (1-4, 5.32 - coming off a bad outing against the Marlins last Friday) in this critical game for the Reds. Considering the next series is in Detroit against baseball's surprising second-best team (the Tigers), the Reds need to figure things out quickly before the Cardinals lap them in the NL Central.

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