CINCINNATI — One of the dangers of losing games day after day after day is that a team accepts defeat, gets comfortable losing and as soon as something negative occurs the players shake their heads and say to themselves, "Here we go again."
That’s a danger facing the Cincinnati Reds these days. They’ve scored two or fewer runs 21 times, exactly one third of their first 63 games. They have not come from behind to win in any game in which they have fallen behind by three or more runs, and only twice have they come frm two runs behind to win.
Those facts are enough to make any team feel inferior, feel as if, "The baseball gods are looking the other way," feel as if no matter what they try it won’t work.
And manager Bryan Price is trying everything to ignite the offensive wick — lineup changes, batting order changes, game aggressiveness. But his team is languishing in fourth place, five games under .500 and eight games out of first place.
Has this team fallen into the, "We’re comfortable losing mode"? Price says no, but he is keeping his index finger on the pulse.
"We don’t see that and if we do it will be addressed," said Price. "To me what verifies if guys are still expecting to win is the effort you get on the field. There have been a couple of times in the last week where guys have not run the ball out hard and that’s disappointing to me. That bothers me. We addressed and will contiue to address it and will not allow it to permeate the ball club.
"What we need is for guys to bust their tails every week and if they do that it is hard to complain," Price added. "Guys are showing up on time, preparing, playing aggressively. When they do that we have to live with the results. So if something of that nature would start to show itself up that would be a concern."
It is a challenge to display aggression when the offense is with the frozn peas in deep freeze, in summer hibernation, snoozing where the bears snooze during the winter.
It is difficult when all but two players on your roster are hitting below .275 and the team batting average is .237, fourth lowest in the National League, and the team has scored only 216 runs, nearly the fewest of any Reds team after 63 games in more than 70 years.
"All we’re looking for right now is a consistent style of play," said Price. "We need to do positive things on a consistent basis to give us more opportunities to win games. In our losses lately the theme has been to fall behind and not be able to get ourselves back in the game. It would be nice for us to be the aggressor, put some runs up early and work from that direction rather than the other way."
The Reds have been shut out seven times, they’ve lost 14 one-run games. Their longest winning streak is four games, one time. They were 12-15 in March/April, they were 13-14 in May and 4-5 so far in June.
"We haven’t had a good month yet," said Price. "We need one of those months where you go 20-and-8 or 20-and-9 and then you look up and you might be only two games back and a few games over .500 and we’re feeling good about ourselves. We have to go out there and get that, not sit on our hands and think it is just gong to happen.
"These guys are working hard and there are no complaints as far what they bring to the field," Price added. "That being said, the results haven’t been good. But it could be worse. We’re eight games out of first place and five games under .500 and we haven’t played well collectively. There is room for improvement and I remain confident we will improve."
And if Price feels his team has fallen into a losing comfort zone, well, perhaps he’ll remove the black leather couches from the clubhouse, a subtle suggetion that in baseball being too comfortable is not a success plan.