Todd Frazier won the Home Run Derby with final-swing drama. Aroldis Chapman blew ’em away in the ninth inning. Even the rain stayed away, moving through Cincinnati without interrupting the biggest moments of the All-Star Game.
Now, even as Reds fans enjoy the successful festivities, it’s time to trade the afterglow for the glum. It begins with Friday night’s opener of a three-game home series with the Cleveland Indians, which figures to feature far less fanfare.
The Reds (39-47) enter the second half looking to trade two of their best pitchers – including Chapman and his 100 mph heat. They’re headed for another grim few months, well out of contention and stuck with several big contracts that leave them little wiggle room for starting over.
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Who will be the first traded? Who will take his place? How bad will it get in the second half?
"We can’t be thinking about what’s going to happen or anything else," Frazier said.
The challenges are much different from the All-Star logistics that went extremely well in the city where pro baseball began.
"It is something that is part of the game but out of my control," said Chapman, using a line that reflects the mood around town.
Although a still-tired Frazier went 0 for 3 during the AL’s 6-3 win Tuesday night, Chapman pitched the top of the ninth and fanned all three batters, hitting 103 mph with his fastball. It was a bittersweet moment since he could be dealt later this month, along with starter Johnny Cueto.
For now, they’ll turn to Mike Leake for the more immediately manageable task of shutting down the Indians (42-46).
Leake (6-5, 4.08 ERA) pitched the Reds to a 1-0 win in Miami last Friday, surrendering three hits with a season-high 10 strikeouts in eight innings.
The right-hander has struggled at home with a 2-3 record and 5.92 ERA, and he’s been horrible against the AL, going 0-3 with a 10.50 ERA in his last five interleague starts. That stretch includes a 7-3 loss at Cleveland on May 22 in which Leake gave up five runs and seven hits in four innings.
Even so, he’s held Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana to 1-for-12 lifetime marks.
The Indians counter with Trevor Bauer, who also went a career high-matching eight innings in his most recent start while limiting Houston to two runs and six hits in a 4-2 victory July 8. Both runs came on a homer, and Bauer’s control continued trending in the right direction without a walk. He’s issued two in 21 1-3 innings over three starts after posting a rate of 4.39 per nine innings in his first 14 starts.
"A guy hit a ball that was above his head out for a home run and I didn’t walk anybody," Bauer said. "It was the Twilight Zone."
Bauer (8-5, 3.76) has won consecutive starts but has never strung together three.
The right-hander also earned a decision in a 5-2 win over Cincinnati on May 24, yielding a run and five hits in 7 2-3 innings to complete a three-game sweep and give the Indians a 13th win in 14 home games versus the Reds.
The 24-year-old is 5-2 with a 1.82 ERA in eight road starts, as well as 4-1 with a 1.83 mark in nine interleague outings since moving to the AL.
Bauer has limited the Reds to a .154 average in two career meetings, though that might not look quite as impressive given Cincinnati’s recent offensive production.
The Reds entered the break with consecutive losses to the Marlins and are averaging 2.0 runs and batting .222 in 10 games this month.
The Indians also dropped their last two before the break, including Sunday’s 2-0 home final against Oakland. Over a 4-5 span, they’re scoring 2.8 runs per game and batting .210 with Brandon Moss hitless in his last 17 at-bats.