The Cincinnati Reds continue to tread water. They didn’t sink on the west coast road trip that ended Sunday with a 6-5 loss to the San Francisco Giants, but they failed to get any closer to .500, finishing 3-3 against the Oakland A’s and Giants.
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The Reds have played a quarter of the season. They’re 18-23. They have been five games under .500 12 times this season. They are 17-15 since a 1-8 start but haven’t got any closer than four games under .500 since April 13.
The good news is the Reds play 12 of their next 17 games at Great American Ball Park, where they are 9-8, beginning at 6:40 p.m. Tuesday with the start of a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs. The bad news is those 17 games are against the Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates — four teams that are a combined 28 games over .500.
Here are three reasons for optimism moving forward and three reasons to be pessimistic about the Reds’ chances:
Reasons to hope
1. Pitching delivers: The Reds lead the National League with a 3.36 ERA. Luis Castillo (4-1, 1.76 ERA) ranks fourth in the league in ERA and third in strikeouts (70). He returns to the mound Thursday in the series finale against the Cubs.
2. Scoring margin: The Reds have outscored their opponents by 30 runs. Their expected win-loss record with a 171-141 margin is 24-17. Fans can hope the numbers add up to more victories in the coming weeks.
3. Suarez heating up: At least one of the many struggling Reds batters has found his stroke in recent games. Eugenio Suarez went 9-for-19 in the last four games of the road trip, raising his average from .227 to .259.
Reasons to doubt
1. Not good enough: After hitting .212 in April, the Reds have hit .225 in May. That hasn’t helped their offense escape the National League basement. They rank last in batting average (.216). Five players who have been regular starters since Opening Day are hitting worse than .230: Tucker Barnhart (.172); Joey Votto (.206); Jose Peraza (.207); Yasiel Puig (.217); and Jesse Winker (.226).
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2. Untimely collapses: While the Reds bullpen leads the National League with a 3.37 ERA, it has played a part in the Reds blowing nine leads this season, including an eight-run lead on May 3 against the Giants. The Reds are 5-8 in games tied at the start of the seventh inning. They are 1-4 in extra-inning games.
3. Closer struggles: Raisel Iglesias, the highest-paid pitcher in the bullpen ($6 million in 2019), is 1-5 with a 4.12 ERA in 18 appearances. He has allowed more home runs (4) than any other pitcher in the bullpen.
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