The Cincinnati Reds will shake their heads vigorously in disagreement, but the evidence is piling up that they are pressing, that they are tight, that are overtrying.
With everything at stake, with only 24 games remaining in the season, the Reds can’t win a series.
After losing to the Detroit Tigers, 4-1, Sunday afternoon in Great American Ball Park, the Reds have lost four straight series, all by two games to one.
It began in Milwaukee, continued in St. Louis, happened again in Miami and stretched to four at home against Detroit.
And the Reds were anxious to vacate GABP and depart for the airport before the Brent Spence Bridge over the Ohio River into Kentucky was closed to traffic, 90 minutes after the game ended.
The Reds play their next nine games on the road, three each in Chicago (Cubs), St. Louis and Pittsburgh. Reds manager David Bell refuses to believe the bridge to the playoffs might be closing to his team.
“The way our team thinks is that we work to move forward,” he said. “Look where we are. We have so much to look forward to, a really important road trip coming up. That’s where our focus is already.
“The motivation is there, just because of the position we’re in,” he added. “That’s all the motivation you need. We have a lot left to look forward to and important games to play.”
But what about losing four straight series, two of them to suspect teams?
“We have so much to look forward to, so much to be excited about to focus on moving forward,” he said. “You learn from challenges as well as success. This is what it’s all about and if we do anything but move on and look forward, that would be a mistake.”
The Tigers started 24-year-old Casey Mize, the No. 1 overall pick out of Auburn in 2018. He retired nine Reds in a row, one time through the lineup.
Detroit manager A.J. Hinch appeared to earn himself a Christmas fruitcake and a bottle of wine from the Reds when he took out Mize after three innings.
The Reds immediately celebrated in the fourth with a pair of hits, putting runners on second and first with one out against Jose Urena. But Joey Votto lined into a double play.
They banged two more hits in the fifth and once again had runners on second and first with one out. Max Schrock grounded into a fielder’s choice and pitcher Luis Castillo struck out on three pitches. And that was that.
“You try to create the opportunities and any time you score runs, it’s the big hits,” said Bell. “We did have a couple of opportunities, but really we didn’t have enough going on against any of their pitchers.”
The offense consisted of six singles, two by Tyler Naquin. The Reds were 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position and stranded six.
Castillo had held the Tigers scoreless and it was 0-0 entering the sixth after the Reds’ failures in the fourth and fifth.
It all changed in the top of the sixth when Detroit scored three runs, only one earned due to a bad-hop error by first baseman Votto.
Akil Baddoo started the inning with an opposite field double punched to left field. With one out, Robbie Grossman bounced one to Votto that bounced high off his glove for an error.
Jeimer Candelario pulled a two-run triple to right field and scored on a sacrifice fly by Erik Haase for a 3-0 lead.
Castillo, now 7-15, said he was not frustrated by the error, the opposite-field excuse-me double and the soft-contact triple that was a ground ball between Votto and the first base bag.
“Nothing frustrating, really,” he said. “Those are just things that happen in a game. They happen to me a lot, sometimes. I’m out there trying to give the team an opportunity to win, trying to grind out that sixth inning.”
The Tigers added a fourth run in the eighth when Reds relief pitcher Luis Cessa issued an inning-opening full-count walk to Baddoo and he scored from first on a hit-and-run single by Jonathan Schoop.
The Reds broke through for a run in the eighth, but once again stranded two runners.
Detroit relief pitcher Jose Cisnero gave up a leadoff walk to Schrock and a one-out single to Jonathan India.
Hinch immediately went to his closer, left hander Gregory Soto. India scored on a wild pitch and pinch-hitter Asdrubel Cabrera walked.
So once again the Reds had two on with one out. Nick Castellanos struck out. Votto struck out.
The Tigers were 49-1 this season when leading after eight and Soto made sure it became 50-1 with as 1-2-3 ninth on three straight fly balls to right field by pinch-hitter Eugenio Suarez, Kyle Farmer and Aristides Aquino. It was Soto’s 11th straight save and 18th in 19 opportunities.
Reds at Cubs, 2:20 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410
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