Reds slide tied to rotation struggles

Starting pitching, thought to be a strength of the Reds going into the season, has become a major problem. Cincinnati lost 5-4 to Arizona on Tuesday night for its fifth defeat in six games.

Once again, a rough outing for the starting pitcher was the culprit.

The Reds are 4-8 since their 5-0 start. They have fallen into a first-place tie with the Brewers, just a half-game ahead of the Cardinals and Cubs and a game in front of the Pirates.

“You’ve got to keep playing,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “You can’t get down. You can’t feel sorry for yourself. You’ve got to keep playing. We knew it was going to be a tough road sooner or later, especially when you’ve got two of your main horses out with (Johnny) Cueto and Homer (Bailey injured).

“Hopefully we can win some games before they get back and then really get on a roll.”

In the first five games of the current homestand, starters have given up 24 runs in 24 1/3 innings. Only once has a starter gotten through the sixth.

Sam LeCure, one the starters who moved up after Cueto and Bailey were hurt, went 5 1/3 innings Tuesday, allowing five runs on nine hits. He gave up four home runs.

“What really bothers me — not being able to go deeper into the game to save the bullpen more than the runs,” LeCure said.

NOTES, QUOTES

–RHP Mike Leake will start Thursday against Arizona at home as scheduled. Leake was arrested Monday and charged with theft after he allegedly stole $59.88 worth of T-shirts from a Macy’s store. The Reds did look at having someone else make the start. “There was consideration,” manager Dusty Baker said. “We talked about how he felt. Could he handle the pressure of it? He said yeah. Sometimes, when you’re in times of trouble, it’s easier to go to work than it is not to go to work.” Leake’s attorney asked that Leake be placed in a diversion program, which means his sentence would be limited to community service.

–2B Brandon Phillips returned to the lineup after missing four games with slightly strained right groin. He went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Phillips did not enjoy his time on the sideline. “It was kind of hard,” he said. “The only thing I know is about playing baseball. It’s kind of hard. I sat down and talked to (Dusty Baker). He said this is a marathon. It really made me think. There’s the whole season instead of just April. I had to calm down a little bit.”

–LHP Aroldis Chapman was available Tuesday night, but he did not pitch. He reported no ill effects after his outing Monday, his first after sitting out three games with shoulder inflammation. Chapman’s fastball topped out at 106 mph Monday, according the scoreboard readout. “He didn’t say anything,” manager Dusty Baker said. “We’re on the honor system now.”

–LHP Bill Bray extended his scoreless streak to nine outings and 7 1/3 innings. Bray has retired 22 of the 29 batters he’s faced this season. He’s stranded all three runners he’s inherited.

–1B Joey Votto was hit by a pitch Tuesday, extending his streak of reach base to all 17 games this season. Votto is hitting .407/.502/.610.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 — Consecutive losses for the Reds, the first time that has happened since Sept. 22-25.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “He hit it a long way the other way. I thought: That’s not a good sign. I tried to keep the ball down and keep it out of the air. Honestly, any time the ball went up I wasn’t sure. Every ball they hit in the air I was scared about.” — RHP Sam LeCure, on the homer Arizona LF Ryan Roberts hit in the first inning, the first of four LeCure would surrender.