Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips wore a bright, yellow shirt with a smiley face on the front into the clubhouse before a game Monday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.
The shirt did not reflect the mood in the room then or hours later when the Reds trudged to their lockers after a 5-4 loss, their ninth in a row, to the Colorado Rockies.
Two weeks ago, this season had an ounce or two of promise. The longest losing skid since an 11-game streak in 1998 has drowned most hope. There’s no crying in baseball, of course — but plenty of frowning right now for the Reds, who fell 10 games behind the first-place St. Louis Cardinals.
“Losing’s not fun,” Reds right fielder Jay Bruce said. “Losing’s terrible. Losing sucks. Losing is the exact opposite reason you play the game. We have a group of guys who are capable of winning. We are collectively not getting the job done.
“It’s one of those deals where if we pitch, we don’t hit. If we hit, we don’t pitch. Sometimes the starters pitch well, and the relievers don’t. Sometimes the relievers pitch well, and the starters don’t. Hitters don’t hit with runners in scoring position. There’s a laundry list of things.”
The Reds (18-26) failed in all sorts of areas in the opener of this three-game series.
• They had 11 hits but left nine runners on base, including the tying runner in the ninth. Todd Frazier walked with two out, but Bruce flew out to center to end the game.
• Starter Jason Marquis pitched as well as he has since his first start in May, allowing two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. Ryan Mattheus, Jumbo Diaz and Tony Cingrani combined to pitch 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
Then the most reliable player on the team, closer Aroldis Chapman, gave up the go-ahead run in the ninth. Chapman walked the leadoff batter and then gave up a bloop single. Nolan Arenado hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Charlie Blackmon.
• A throwing error by Todd Frazier in the second inning led to two runs. If not for that error, Marquis would have been out of the inning by the time DJ LeMahieu singled to drive in two runs.
Frazier’s miscue came one day after the Reds committed three errors in a 5-2 loss to the Indians in Cleveland.
“That’s something we never ever do,” Bruce said. “We’re the best defensive team in the league. That’s not calling anyone out. I’m just saying there’s some uncharacteristic things happening right now. We’re a group of guys that works our butts off, who prepare, who take it very seriously, who take a lot of pride in doing things the right way and winning. We’re used to winning. We’re not used to losing.”
This is the Reds’ worst record through 44 games since they were 17-27 in 2007. That was Joey Votto’s rookie year.
“When I came up, this organization was used to losing,” Bruce said. “We’re not used to losing now. It’s frustrating. We’re trying to do everything we can —probably too much —to turn the tide. What we have to do is allow ourselves to play baseball. It’s a game. You have to play it. You can’t force things to happen. You just have to be prepared for the opportunity when it does present itself.”
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