CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Reds fans had to wait three days to see rookie Elly De La Cruz’s first single and stolen base. He opened his career with more dramatic accomplishments: a double in his second-bat Tuesday and a home run and triple in his second game Wednesday.
De La Cruz’s first-inning single and stolen base Thursday afternoon were two of the few highlights in a 6-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers (36-27) at Great American Ball Park. He struck out in his final three at-bats but still hit .364 (4-for-11) in his first series in the big leagues.
“He has such a long way to go, but I know we’ll be talking about him a lot,” manager David Bell said. “It was a great start. It’s good that it was here in Cincinnati — not get that out of the way but I knew there would be a lot of anticipation on his part. He settled in here. Our home crowd got to see him play. Now we go on a long road trip. It was a great series. He gets to just go play now.”
After two straight walk-off victories, the Reds (29-34) saw a three-game winning streak end. They finished a homestand against the Milwaukee Brewers and Dodgers with a 3-4 mark. They fell 5½ games behind the Brewers in the National League Central Division and are four games back in the wild-card standings.
Three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw (8-4, 2.95 ERA) allowed five hits in seven shutout innings and struck out nine. The Reds were shut out for the first time since a 2-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 23.
Kershaw improved to 7-2 with a 2.10 ERA in 16 starts against the Reds.
“We’ve seen him quite a bit,” Bell said, “and that was one of the best outings I’ve seen. He had different shapes on his slider, and we didn’t really have an answer for it.”
The Reds lost starter Graham Ashcraft (3-5, 6.78 ERA) in the third inning after he was hit on the calf by a ball hit by Austin Barnes.
“It caused everything on the backside of the knee to just lock up,” Ashcraft said.
Bell and Reds trainer Sean McQueeney visited the mound to check on Ashcraft. He stayed in the game but then left the game later in the third. He allowed three earned runs on three hits in 2 2/3 innings.
“I didn’t really feel it much when it came to pitching,” Ashcraft said. “The only time I’d feel it was having to try to go cover a bag, jogging and walking.”
Ashcraft was hit in the hamstring earlier in the season, he said, and felt better three days later. He expects to be on a similar timeline this time and doesn’t think he’ll miss a start.
The Reds start a nine-game road trip Friday. They play the St. Cardinals (26-37), Kansas City Royals (18-44) and Houston Astros (36-26) in three straight three-game series before returning home June 19 to play the Colorado Rockies (26-37).
The Reds drew 24,323 fans on Thursday and averaged 21,976 in the series. Good weather helped, as did the presence of De La Cruz, who was promoted to the Reds on Tuesday before the series opener. Through Wednesday, the Reds ranked 22nd in baseball in average attendance (19,131).
The Reds have won three of their last four series but have been under .500 since a 4-4 start. They hope the grit they showed in back-to-back comeback victories against the Dodgers in the first two games of the series leads to more success on the road.
“It was a great team series win,” Bell said. “It took everything. It really did. That’s how you win in this league. It’s disappointing today, but it is important to look back at the games and say, ‘We’ll take that now.’ We just have so much more ahead of this. It’s a reminder of how we just have to keep getting better. Our players really deserve that. They’re doing everything they can.”
Reds at Cardinals, 8:15 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410