The Cincinnati Reds tried something different with the batting order Monday in the opener of a four-game series against the Atlanta Braves at Great American Ball Park.
Interim manager Jim Riggleman penciled Scott Schebler into the lead-off spot.
“We’re 3-and-whatever we are,” Riggleman said. “We’ve got to try anything.”
That record is 3-18, the worst mark through 21 games in franchise history and one of the eight worst records through 21 games since 1900. The Reds still are better than the 1988 Baltimore Orioles (0-21) and the 2003 Detroit Tigers (2-19) — the only teams in the last 100 years with worse records than 3-18 — but with each loss, they join a more exclusive group.
Batting Schebler, who returned from the disabled list on Friday, in the top spot in the order is the latest move the Reds hope provides a spark for a stagnant offense. He has batted lead-off eight times in his career.
“We had him hit first the other day in the minor leagues preparing for this,” Riggleman said. “It’s just a matter of, ‘Was it going to be him? Was it going to be (Jose) Peraza? Was it going to be Scooter (Gennett)? I kind of like having Scooter there (batting fourth) to protect Joey (Votto) a little.”
Billy Hamilton, who’s hitting .172, moved to ninth in the lineup. He’s hit there 11 times this season. That doesn’t mean he’ll stay at the bottom of the order.
“I really had four of five opinions today talking about that,” Riggleman said. “Do we just put him up there in the first spot and run with it, or do we leave him down below? And until we’re ready to say, ‘Billy, go get them in that first spot and do what you can do,’ I want to leave him down there because I don’t want to put him there today and not tomorrow.”
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Schebler, who’s hitting .263 in six games, was fine with the decision.
“It was something we had talked about,” Schebler said. “I think they want Billy in the nine slot kind of as a second lead-off hitter. I’m comfortable with it. I’m not really going to change my approach. I’m an aggressive hitter. Honestly, after that first at-bat, you just fall in line, so it’s really not a big deal. A lot of people put thought into the lead-off spot, but it’s just another person in the lineup after the first at-bat, and I’ll treat it as such.”
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The Reds entered the game ranked last in baseball in runs scored (61), last in home runs (11), 27th out of 30 teams in batting average (.220) and 24th in on-base percentage (.299). They did not hit a home run on the six-game road trip that concluded Sunday with a 9-2 loss in St. Louis.
Schebler remains confident the offense will turn things around.
“I’m not sure what the deal has been,” Schebler said. “Getting (Eugenio Suarez) back will be nice. Yeah, we’ll get it going. Everybody has those deals. We happened to have it early in the season. The Dodgers won the pennant last year, and they were 3-17 in September. Granted it looks bad because it’s starting off that way, but it happens to everybody.”
Notes: The series against the Braves continues at 6:40 p.m. Tuesday. Tyler Mahle (1-3, 5.14) starts for the Reds against Brandon McCarthy (3-0, 2.91). Mahle allowed two earned runs in five innings in his last start, bouncing back from two starts in which he allowed 10 earned runs in 10 innings.