CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Reds lost five straight games, three main operatives are on the disabled list, including No. 1 starter Johnny Cueto, and Chicken Little is running around yelling, “The roof is falling in the dugout, the roof is falling in the dugout.”
What’s a team to do, especially a team expected to run away and vanish from the rest of the National League Central division by the All-Star break?
If there is any, “Woe is us,” feelings in the clubhouse, it isn’t visible or discernible.
In fact, the Reds escaped the funk for at least one day Saturday, beating Philadelphia, 4-2, after Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee and Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo battled at 0-0 for six innings.
Then Brandon Phillips broke a 2-2 tie in the eighth with a two-run single to right off relief pitcher Mike Adams to at least temporarily put a tourniquet on the Reds’ wounds.
Homer Bailey stretched out in front of his locker Friday afternoon before the game, one day before he was to face the Phillies, and swept his arm in a circle.
“Anybody who walks into our clubhouse right now and into our coaches office and manager’s office can tell that we’re the only ones not worried. It’s April and, yes, we have to play better than we did that last two series, but it will happen. So calm down, people.”
Of the plethora of injuries, Bailey smiled and said, “Remember last year? We lost the one player people said we couldn’t be without (Joey Votto), so we’re just in another one of those situations.”
Last season Votto went down with a knee injury on July 8 that required two surgeries when the Reds were in second place, one game out of first place. Votto didn’t return until Sept. 3 when the Reds led the division by 9 ½ games because the team went 35-16 without him.
“The good thing is we have a really good a team, a really good rotation, a really good bullpen,” Bailey said. “No, it hasn’t been up to snuff lately, but we know that it will.
“This is just the beginning, 12 games into the season,” Bailey added. “If you are running a mile and you trip in the first 50 yards that doesn’t mean a thing. It’s all the time after that.”
The Reds bolted from the dugout with a 5-2 start, taking two of three from the Los Angeles Angels and two of three from the Washington Nationals, two teams predicted to win their divisions. And then they scored nine runs in the ninth inning to take the first game of the season against their top division rival, the St. Louis Cardinals.
Then came the five-game slide to the depths, two straight losses in St. Louis and three straight in Pittsburgh.
“Actually, other than Pittsburgh, so far we’re doing pretty damn well for the teams we’ve been facing,” said Bailey, the man who pitched a no-hitter in Pittsburgh last year but didn’t face the Pirates in the recent series. “We’ve faced the Angels, Nationals and Cardinals and if you can play .500 against them, that’s a good deal. You need to win a lot more games against everybody else and that’s what the good teams do.”
Fans are wadded up because the Reds were 5-7 after 12 games, forgetting that the 2012 team that won 97 games and the division after starting 4-8.
“Exactly,” said Bailey. “And we were in second place at the All-Star break. It will happen for us. We are too good of a team to keep going this way.”
Bailey talks from the pitching perspective and third baseman Todd Frazier talks from the position player perspective.
“We’re not harping on this because we’re a day-by-day club,” Frazier said. “It is no fun losing and it is huge to lose Cueto because you know when he’s out there you have a big chance to win a good percentage of the time.
“We have to continue producing offensively, score some runs, and we’ll be all right. After a pause and a broad smile,” he said. “Sounds easy, right? Easier said than done, but our hopes are high. It’s only 12 games. These injuries stink and that’s all you can say about it.
“We’ve had some recent struggles and we need to pick ourselves back up, me included (1 for 18), and away we go.”
And on this night, away they went to a victory, one in which Frazier contributed with a sacrifice fly that gave the Reds a 2-0 lead in the seventh inning.