Reds find themselves in last place after seven-game losing streak

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Jesse Winker interview (April 25, 2021)

Cincinnati will have to beat baseball’s best team to end skid

A Twitter advertisement from New Era, a headwear and apparel brand, pitched a hat to Cincinnati Reds fans on Sunday night.

“More than a cap, it’s a moment,” the ad read. “Fit For Glory.”

The timing of the ad, or the wording, could have been better. The Reds lost their seventh straight game hours earlier, and the losing streak seemed even worse because the team then headed to California to start a series Monday against the Los Angeles Dodgers (15-7). The defending World Series champions own the best record in baseball.

In recent days days, the Reds had been fit not for glory but for the basement of the National League Central. That’s where they found themselves after being swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks and then the St. Louis Cardinals. All the optimism of a 9-5 start has faded for the fans. The players can do nothing else but talk optimistically and hope they revive their fortunes as quick as they were derailed.

“We just got to keep fighting, keep grinding,” left fielder Jesse Winker said Sunday after a 5-2 loss in St. Louis. “We’re a good ballclub, and it’ll turn for us. We’ve just got to keep going.”

The reasons for the collapse are numerous. Here are four:

1. Cold offense: The Reds scored 27 runs in the season-opening series against the Cardinals and six in three games last weekend. They have been shut out three times in the last 14 games after scoring at least five runs in each of the first seven games.

“Everyone is staying together,” manager David Bell said Sunday. “Everyone that’s been around this game has been through these things before where you go through a stretch where you’re not winning games. There’s nothing about it that’s acceptable or fun or anything like that, but you get tested during these times. When you pass the test, usually it’s about staying together. You keep competing, and you never give up. You get rewarded for that. we saw it happen with our team last year.”

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2. Bullpen issues: While the relievers pitched better against the Cardinals, throwing 8 1/3 straight scoreless innings before Sean Doolittle gave up a run in the eight inning Sunday, that followed a four-game stretch in which it twice blew late leads and saw its ERA grow to 6.00, the second worst in baseball.

3. Ace troubles: The two starting pitchers expected to be the Reds’ best have not performed well in the first month. Luis Castilo has a 6.29 ERA in five starts. Sonny Gray, who started the season on the injured list, has a 7.88 ERA in two starts.

4. Slow start: Eugenio Suarez, who talked in the spring of hitting 50 home runs this season, has three home runs in 20 games, putting him on pace to hit 24. He also has the worst batting average (.188) in the starting lineup.

Bell said Suarez’s performance at the plate may have been affected by the focus he has had to put on learning to play shortstop again, but it’s too early for him to be too concerned.

“Each and every day that goes by that he doesn’t feel great at the plate, it’s one day too long for him,” Bell said Friday. “We hate to see any of our players go through it, but it is part of the process. I think we have to remind ourselves even more this year how early it is because last year was so short. The main thing is he’s doing everything he can. He’s working at it. He’s looking to make any adjustment he needs to make. It truly is a matter of time for him.”

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