McCoy: Bats go missing as Reds lose seventh straight

Cardinals score 5-2 to sweep three-game series

The Cincinnati Reds have plunged from first place to last place quicker than one can say, “The bats are missing.”

It is what happens when a team loses seven straight games in the span of a week.

And it has gone from bad to worse.

The St. Louis Cardinals completed a three-game sweep Sunday afternoon in Busch Stadium III, 5-2.

After getting shut out on five hits Saturday, 2-0, the Reds saw their scoreless streak stretched six more innings by St. Louis starter Jack Flaherty.

During those six innings, the Reds had one hit, a single by Jesse Winker in the fourth. But he was erased on an inning-ending double play. Winker extended his hitting streak to 10 games.

The Reds didn’t get another hit until Winker led the seventh inning with a home run.

Flaherty, now 4-0, went seven innings and gave up one run and three hits, walked nobody and struck out six.

The Reds scored a run in the eighth off relief pitcher Jordan Hicks, owner of a 100 mph fastball and a penchant for walks. He walked Nick Senzel on four pitches to open the inning and he eventually scored on pinch-hitter Tyler Naquin’s single.

The Cardinals quickly retrieved that run in the bottom of the inning against Sean Doolittle. Dylan Carlson doubled, his third hit for the second straight game, and scored on a single by Paul Goldschmidt to push it back to 5-2.

The Reds loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth against Cardinals closer Alex Reyes, but Tucker Barnhart grounded to first on a 3-and-1 count to end a frustrating weekend under the Gateway Arch.

Futility is rampant in the middle of the Reds batting order. Joey Votto is 2 for his last 23 with nine strikeouts. Eugenio Suarez is 2 for 35 with 17 strikeouts

Things continue to go awry for Reds starter Luis Castillo. As usual, Castillo was nicked for a run in the first inning when he gave up hits to the first two Cardinals and fell behind immediately, 1-0.

Castillo’s first-inning earned run average for his five starts this season is 27.00.

And it was evident Castillo is off his game. St. Louis outfielder Tyler O’Neill was 0 for 14 for his career against Castillo. Not only did he hit a home run off La Piedra, he hit two.

“That first at bat (by O’Neill), I thought it actually located pretty well,” said Castillo.

“It was right underneath his hands, low and tight in the zone. He was able to bring his hands in quick. His second at bat, it was just a hung slider, it just hung up there. . .and it went yard.”

Castillo is 1-2 with a 6.29 earned run average after going five innings and giving up four runs, six hits, walking one and striking out three.

Asked if he is feeling personal frustration over his inability to chip in with a win, Castillo said, “If I feel frustrated, then that affects me more mentally. That’s not good for me if I feel frustrated. I’m always thinking positively, thinking I’m going to get out of this. And as a team, we’re going to get out of this as well.”

There were some extra-curriculars, too. Flaherty hit India in the batting helmet flap in the sixth inning, the second time this season India has taken a pitch to the head.

The pitch clearly was an accident, but the umpires issued a warning to both dugouts and Reds manager David Bell went berserk. And for his efforts, Bell was ejected for the 12th time during his managerial career with the Reds.

The one constant positive during the team’s troubles has been the batwork of Winker.

“We have to keep fighting, keep grinding,” said Winker. “We’re a a good ball club and it will turn for us. It’s baseball. It’s 162 games. You are going to go through winning streaks and you are going to go through losing streaks.

“We have to continue to pick each other up and it will turn,” he added.

To make it turn, the Reds now face a daunting assignment — three games the next three days in Dodger Stadium against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“They’re a great team and they play great on both sides of the ball,” said Winker. “We’re going to go out there and we’re going to fight and do whatever it takes to come out with some wins. Play good baseball and see where the chips fall.”