Last-placed teams square off as Reds host Padres

Glance at the National League offensive leaders, and the Cincinnati Reds would seem to be a team destined for the playoffs.

Scooter Gennett leads in batting average and hits. Eugenio Suarez is in the top five in home runs and in the top two in RBIs. Joey Votto is a National League All-Star at first base.

So much offense, but so few wins. And so little pitching.

That’s already evident as the last-place San Diego Padres and the last-place Reds prepare to play their second game of a four-game series Friday night at Great American Ball Park, with right-handers Brett Kennedy (1-2) and Anthony DeSclafani (7-4) opposing each other. A win by the Padres would clinch the season series for a sixth consecutive season.

As is often the case in a Reds game, home runs told the tale as the Padres won the series opener 6-2 Thursday night behind two homers from rookie catcher Francisco Mejia, who was playing in only his second game with San Diego.

Mejia homered in successive at-bats off inconsistent Reds starter Luis Castillo (8-12), who has allowed 27 long balls in 28 starts. Mejia, once the top prospect in the Cleveland Indians farm system, homered in only his second at-bat with San Diego in the third inning, then hit a three-run drive in a four-run fourth inning.

Going into the game, Mejia had only 16 career major league at-bats.

“I’m really happy to go up there and do what I can do and show my ability,” Mejia told Fox Sports San Diego while speaking through an interpreter. “It’s really fun.”

Hunter Renfroe also homered off Castillo in the fourth, and made an outstanding two-out catch in left field after the Reds loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning.

Padres starter Eric Lauer pitched shutout ball for the second successive start since coming off the disabled list, though he lasted only four innings and thus didn’t qualify for the win.

Homers have been a season-long theme for the Reds (59-82), and it explains why they’ve now clinched a fifth consecutive losing season — and why, with 21 games remaining, they’ll likely finish with 90-plus losses for a fourth consecutive season.

As well as the Reds hit, with eight players batting .275 or better, they pitch far worse. They’ve already allowed an alarming 204 home runs — no other NL pitching staff has given up even 180 — and their 4.74 ERA is the second worst in the league to the Marlins’ 4.77.

The Reds have allowed 1,323 hits, an average of 9.4 per game, or 70 more than any other NL staff.

“He (Castillo) threw a couple of balls in some bad spots,” Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. “We gave him (Mejia) a couple of fastballs and he didn’t miss them. Luis didn’t make a lot of mistakes, but when he did they drove it.”

Padres manager Andy Green said, “He (Mejia) is proving in a hurry he can hit fastballs, and he saw a couple of good ones (from Castillo).”

DeSclafani is the one Reds starter who’s maintained a level of consistency, and he’ll try to do so again in his first start against the Padres since 2016.

The right-hander has a 2.75 ERA in his last 36 innings of work, and he lasted at least six innings in five consecutive starts until being pulled after 3 2/3 innings during Cincinnati’s 6-4, 10-inning victory Sunday at St. Louis.

Despite missing all of last season and the first two months of this season with multiple injuries, DeScalfani has bounced back to help the Reds win 10 of the 16 games he’s started. Compare that with former staff ace Homer Bailey (1-14), whose 20 starts have resulted in 19 Reds losses.

DeSclafani is 1-0 with a 0.64 ERA in two career starts against San Diego, yielding one run in 14 innings, but those starts came against an entirely different cast than the Padres currently put on the field.

Kennedy will make his sixth major league start and his first against Cincinnati. His last time out, he pitched six shutout innings of four-hit ball during a 7-0 Padres victory over the Colorado Rockies last Friday — gaining his first career victory. He was promoted to the majors after going 10-0 with a 2.72 ERA in 16 starts at Triple-A El Paso.

The Padres have won three of the first four games between the clubs.