CINCINNATI—The celebration at Great American Ball Park began on Wednesday afternoon following Tucker Barnhart’s walk-off base hit in the ninth inning to crown the Reds’ series winners over the Colorado Rockies.
The Reds have now won all three series played at their home venue this season, sweeping the Phillies and taking two out of three from the Pittsburgh Pirates and now, Colorado.
For the second-place Reds, however, there’s an evident problem going forward. It’s a problem that makes fans believe that no lead is safe in the later innings of a ball game. Of course, the bullpen is the issue.
Prior to Barnhart’s game-winning base knock on Wednesday; Reds’ starter Raisel Iglesias tossed an impressive 6 2/3 innings, allowing five hits and two runs while striking out eight. In the next frame after his exit, Cincinnati took a 5-2 lead on consecutive run-scoring doubles by Barnhart and Ivan DeJesus Jr.
But despite the three-run cushion, the Reds’ bullpen once again could not close things down smoothly. Relievers Blake Wood and Tony Cingrani combined to give up three runs in the eighth inning, tying the game at five.
Although it was hidden in the parade of a series victory, the bullpen’s recent outings have been similar Lemony Snicket’s ‘Series of Unfortunate Events.’
Over the Reds’ past nine games, which includes a dreadful six-game road trip where they lost all but one, the team’s pitching in general has been sub-par, but even worse has been the bullpen. In total, Cincinnati has gone 3-6 in those contests, with the starters posting an ERA of 4.63 (44 2/3 IP, 23 ER), compared to the bullpen’s 8.62 ERA (30 1/3 IP, 30 ER).
Manager Bryan Price made one move following the Reds’ win over Colorado, removing J.J Hoover from the closer role after posting a team-worst 15.10 ERA in seven appearances this season.
Some other highlighted weak spots in the Reds’ 27th-ranked bullpen (in terms of earned-run average) are a pair of right handers: Jumbo Diaz and Ross Ohlendorf.
In game one against Colorado, Ohlendorf and Diaz each allowed an eight-inning home run that turned a 1-1 tie into a 5-1 Rockies’ victory, affectively spoiling a strong start by reliever-turned-starter Dan Straily.
There is no question the Reds are not expected to do much this season in terms of climbing atop the NL Central standings, a division that resides three of the five National-League playoff teams from a year ago.
However, if the Reds do want to stay relevant, more moves have to be made, specifically in the bullpen. It is just too much to bear watching young starters like Iglesias, Brandon Finnegan, Robert Stephenson and Jon Moscot throw their heart out for five or six innings just to watch the bullpen teeter-totter with a late lead.
One bright possibility for the Reds’ and their pen could be the return of some injured hurlers. Homer Bailey is set to make his first rehab start in Triple-A Louisville later this week, Anthony DeSclafani is on pace to return sometime near the end of April and fellow young-guns Michael Lorenzen and John Lamb are set to return soon, too.
This could offer some help to Cincinnati’s bullpen, perhaps opting to move Straily or Alfredo Simon to the bullpen, send someone down and maybe even try out Lorenzen in the closer’s role.
Whichever the case, the Reds will need to figure out their next steps soon. Their upcoming 10 games will all come against playoff teams from a year ago, with six of them (3 @NYM, 3 @PIT) away from GABP. Cincinnati is just 1-5 on the road this season.
Up next, a four-game set with the first-place Chicago Cubs, a team that outscored the Reds, 22-6, in a three-game sweep at Wrigley Field just one week ago.