CINCINNATI — Bryan Price did a little sword falling on Wednesday. The Reds’ manager lamented some late-game maneuvering that he felt did his team a disservice in a 5-4 loss to Arizona, a loss that closed out a forgettable homestand and extended the club’s struggles after the All-Star Game.
That’s all well and good for Price to say but the bottom line is any button he’s pushed, any rope he’s pulled and any lineup he’s put out on the field for the last two weeks hasn’t been producing well enough.
Devin Mesoraco’s three-run home run with two outs in the ninth inning made things interesting but wasn’t enough to keep the Reds from losing for the 10th time in their last 12 games. They lost four of six games on this homestand. The offense had just one hit in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base, including six in the first four innings. Relievers J.J. Hoover and Carlos Contreras gave up three tack-on runs in the eighth and ninth innings that proved crucial after Alfredo Simon had pitched seven solid innings, allowing only a two-run home run to Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
Price said he was specifically thinking about the use of Kristopher Negron as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning and how that move affected later choices he had to make, although if he was thinking about the late-inning relief no one could fault him.
"The game got away from us at the end and made it just far enough for us not to be able to get back there and tie the game or win it," said Price, "and in large part I think it was poor game management by myself. I don’t think I made the choices that needed to be made in that game. I really mismanaged the roster in this game. I could’ve created better opportunities for us to win that game and I didn’t do a great job managing this game."
Thursday is the non-waiver trade deadline for Major League Baseball. The Reds could use a bat in their everyday lineup to infuse some energy into an offense that has been catatonic. Mesoraco’s home run was the first non-solo homer hit by the Reds since Todd Frazier hit a two-run shot against Pittsburgh on July 13 in a 6-3 victory. Negron also had a three-run home run that game.
The extended absence of Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips from the lineup because of injury, plus Jay Bruce being away from the team following the death of his grandfather, has taken a cumulative toll on the Reds. Even if those three aren’t at their best — Votto and Bruce in particular have produced well below their career averages this season — their presence in the lineup can only help.
The Reds can’t simply wait on their return if they are going to make a serious push for the postseason. They need some help from the front office, and those that are on the roster have got to figure a way out of this offensive funk.
"It’s never easy because nobody is safe," said first baseman Brayan Pena about the trade deadline. "We as players try not to think about it but we read papers and watch TV. Even if you try not to get caught up in those rumors and stuff like that, it’s impossible because everyone is talking about it."
The Reds play four games in Miami over the weekend against a Marlins team that has an identical 53-54 record and is teetering on the same buy/sell balance beam as the Reds. After that trip to Florida, they begin a four-game home-and-home series with Cleveland. The first two games, Monday and Tuesday nights, will be at Progressive Field before the teams come to the south side of the state for games Wednesday and Thursday nights.
Maybe by then there will be a clearer picture on just which way their season is headed.