Reds suffer tough loss to Cards, limp into Chicago series

CINCINNATI – Late night flights aren’t fun. They’re less enjoyable when they’ve been pushed back because you had to work later than normal.

When you have to get on that flight following an 11-4 loss to your division rival, well, you get the picture.

The Reds chartered to Chicago early Monday after closing out their three-game series with St. Louis on the wrong end of a seven-run Cardinals outburst in the 10th inning against relievers J.J. Hoover and Curtis Partch. Matt Holliday greeted Partch, making his major league debut, with the fifth grand slam of his career, a 464-foot blast into the upper deck in left field at Great American Ball Park.

Being 11 games over-.500 at 37-26 and tied with Pittsburgh for second place in the division behind the Cardinals, just four games out, one week into June is not a bad situation to be in but there are some nagging concerns that were brought to light in the last week as the Reds dropped five of seven games.

*The bullpen lacks depth and not having a healthy Sean Marshall continues to tax the staff. There is less of a margin for error without a reliable set-up left-hander available to manager Dusty Baker, as evidenced in the Sunday night’s seventh inning when Sam LeCure came in to face three straight left-handed batters. LeCure gave up three straight hits and a 4-2 Reds lead. This was the third time in the past seven games the bullpen wasn’t able to secure a lead in the seventh inning or later.

*There isn’t much balance throughout the order and if the top half isn’t producing at peak the Reds have a hard time scoring runs. Cincinnati’s 6-7-8 hitters this weekend had just five hits in 32 at-bats, producing two RBI and two runs scored while striking out 11 times. The same three spots in the St. Louis order went 15-of-38 with nine RBI and eight runs scored.

It was the third time the Reds and Cardinals have met up this season and it’s the third time St. Louis has taken two of the three games. St. Louis has the best record in the majors at 41-22 and things are running well in every phase for the Cardinals right now despite having six pitchers, including four starters, on the disabled list.

“How do you not be disappointed? That was a game we had the lead going into the late innings,” said Baker. “This isn’t just a rough stretch but we’ve been playing some teams that can really hit. Colorado and these guys back-to-back, that’s amongst the two best in our league.”

This week has the potential to offer a bit of a reprieve with a four-game series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field beginning Monday night before returning home for three games against Milwaukee. Pittsburgh makes its first trip into GABP for four games starting next Monday.

The Reds appeared to be in good shape after six innings. Bronson Arroyo had held the Cardinals in check through that time but needed to come out after taking a grounder by Daniel Descalso off his leg in the fourth inning. It stiffened up on him over the next couple of innings.

“You could see it out there on the mound and then we went to him,” said Baker. “He couldn’t go anymore. You know Bronson – if he could go he’d go.”

Said Arroyo: “I felt strong and my pitch count was low enough to go out one more time but I just felt it would be better for the ball club to have someone out there fresh instead of me getting a couple of guys on and having to clean up that inning.”

LeCure gave up a single to John Jay, a double to pinch-hitter Matt Adams to deep center off the glove of Shin-Soo Choo and a run-scoring single to Matt Carpenter before being relieved by Alfredo Simon. Carlos Beltran tied the game with a sacrifice fly.

Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman pitched scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth but when the Reds failed to score in either frame it put them at a disadvantage. Only Hoover, Partch (who was called up from Triple-A Louisville on Saturday to replace an ineffective Logan Ondrusek) and seldom-used lefty Manny Parra remained available to Baker.

Jay Bruce, who had three RBI, gave the Reds the 4-2 lead when he doubled in two runs with two outs in the fifth inning on a 3-2 pitch from Lance Lynn. Bruce drove Lynn’s ninth pitch of the at-bat into the right field corner to score Choo and Derrick Robinson, who had led off the inning with a single and hit-by-pitch.

The Reds managed just one hit, one walk and struck out nine times after Bruce’s double.

“We exhausted our bullpen tonight. You never want to do that,” said Arroyo. “We battled back from a 9-2 loss on day one and it would have been really nice to be down just two games but we’re down four now and we move on to Chicago.”