Reds Review/Preview: Week 21

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Results: 3-1 loss to Royals (13 innings); 4-3 loss to Royals; 5-4 loss to Diamondbacks; 6-3 loss to Diamondbacks; 11-7 loss to Diamondbacks; 4-0 loss to Diamondbacks.

Record // Run differential // Place in NL Central: 51-71 // minus-63 // fifth, 26.5 games back of the first-place Cardinals and a half-game behind the fourth-place Brewers. The Reds’ nine-game losing streak has propelled them into a race to the bottom, as Cincinnati’s flailing club is just two wins ahead of the Rockies for the worst record in the major leagues.

Bye Bye Byrdie: Two days after general manager Walt Jocketty said the Reds had engaged in “zero conversations” regarding waiver trades, the Reds flipped Marlon Byrd to the Giants for Double-A reliever Stephen Johnson, a flamethrowing 24-year-old righty with big strikeout numbers (more than 10 punchouts per nine innings at his last three minor league stops) and big control issues (4.5 walks per nine innings in his minor league career). … From the Giants’ perspective, the club needed another outfield bat. Starting right fielder Hunter Pence (oblique) joined starting center fielder Angel Pagan on the disabled list last week. Starting left fielder Nori Aoki recently returned from a stint on the concussion DL. … The Reds are off the hook for what could’ve been a dicey situation in September: Byrd’s $8 million option for 2016 kicked in if he reached 550 plate appearances in 2015, and there was a chance that Byrd could’ve reached that mark had he played just about every day for the Reds through the end of the year. Once the Giants’ regular outfielders are healthy, Byrd will be a bench player. … Byrd provided the Reds with what they (presumably) thought they would receive from the soon-to-be 38-year-old when the club acquired him from the Phillies in December: a power bat (19 home runs, 35 extra-base hits) with a low regard for walks (.286 on-base percentage) and ‘meh’ defense. … Triple-A Louisville outfielder Ryan LaMarre was called up to take Byrd’s place on the roster.

Notable performances/trends: Raisel Iglesias is beginning to come into his own. Over two starts covering 14 innings last week, the 25-year-old right-hander yielded a single earned run, walked four, and struck out 16. Iglesias’ 13 strikeouts Sunday—which bumped his strikeout rate to nearly 10 per nine innings—were the most by a Reds rookie in nearly 50 years. … The Reds are 4-11 in extra-inning games and have lost their past six overtime contests. … Burke Badenhop’s career-best 18.1 inning scoreless streak culminated Thursday. … Touted young lefty Amir Garrett has yielded just one earned run over his last three starts covering 21 innings, lowering his ERA to 2.38 for the High-A Daytona Tortugas. … Not only are the Reds an MLB-worst 4-16 over their last 20 games, the club’s offense ranks dead last in baseball in run creation and second-to-last in runs scored this month, a curious strategy to support a starting rotation that contains five rookies.

Roster notes: A Tortugas spokesperson informed me early last week that Nick Howard, the Reds top pick in the 2014 draft who is out with right (throwing) shoulder soreness, is rehabbing in Arizona and is not expected to rejoin the Tortugas this season. Whether it be as a starter or reliever, Howard has struggled mightily as a pro, recording an ERA of 5.27 while averaging nearly eight walks per nine innings pitched. … Robert Stephenson, the Reds’ top prospect who left his most recent start for Louisville after just two innings, was placed on the disabled list Tuesday with an affliction in his right forearm. Stephenson, 22, is expected to miss at least a few weeks. … The Reds executed a flurry of roster moves Wednesday: Billy Hamilton (shoulder) was placed on the disabled list, pitcher Dylan Axelrod was optioned out, and infielder/outfielder Brennan Boesch and reliever/ fan favorite Sam LeCure were summoned from Louisville. … Thursday, outfielder Phillip Ervin, the Reds top pick in 2013, was promoted from Daytona to Double-A Pensacola. After enduring a lost season at Low-A Dayton in 2014, Ervin slashed .242/.338/.375 with 12 homers in 109 games for Daytona. … Reliever Manny Parra (biceps) was placed on the disabled list for the third time this year on Sunday. Collin Balester was called up from Louisville. … Tony Cingrani (shoulder) returned to the mound last week for Louisville. The young southpaw made two starts, logging five innings and allowing five hits, two earned runs, and three walks while fanning three.

Reason for OPTIMISM/pessimism: The Reds’ television contract with Fox Sports Ohio ends after the 2016 season. While the Reds aren’t headed for new billion-dollar local TV deal like the Cardinals, they should receive a nice bump from the current $30 million contract to $70-75 million in their next agreement.

Rant of the week, Part I: When the Reds brought on Ryan Madson in January 2012, the signing was done with the understanding that Madson (who saved 32 games for the Phillies in 2011) would serve as the team’s closer, thereby moving Aroldis Chapman into the rotation. Unfortunately, a string of bad luck upended those plans: Madson blew out his elbow in spring training, and because of that misfortune—along with injuries to setup men Nick Masset and Bill Bray—Chapman was moved back to the bullpen after dominating as a starter (17 innings, two walks, 18 strikeouts, 2.12 ERA) in spring training. Chapman’s matriculation to the ‘pen was originally designed as a temporary transfer, but the move wound up as a permanent one. So while it was nice to see Madson—who did not log a single out in the majors from 2012-14—pitch for the Royals on Tuesday night, the outing also served as a reminder that the current Reds closer could’ve been in his fourth season as a starter for the club, perhaps realizing his potential as a (Wishful Thinking Alert) terrifying hybrid of Randy Johnson and Chris Sale.

Rant of the week, Part II: Last Monday night, Chapman pitched in a game for the first time in six days. Naturally, he blew his first save at Great American Ball Park in nearly three years. After a strikeout, the Royals’ Lorenzo Cain singled. Chapman threw over to first base once before Cain stole second. Then, Cain stole third without Chapman even looking back at second. Say whatever you want about the absurdity of the Reds’ best pitcher throwing once in six days, but Chappy has to do a better job of holding runners on.

‘Aww’ moment of the week: [Cue Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town”] The Royals were in Cincinnati last week…which meant that Johnny Cueto was back in town…which meant that Brayan Pena was morally obligated snap a selfie with Johnny Beisbol and a photobombing Hamilton. (“Guess who just got back today; that shimmy-shakin’ ace that had been away.”)

Who’s next?: The Reds continue their 10-game homestand today with a game against the Tigers (a makeup from June 18) before welcoming the Dodgers for three games Tuesday through Thursday. The Reds then head to Milwaukee for a three-game series.

Relevant Reds video clip, Part I: It would be awfully cliche of me to suggest that Jason Bourgeois forgetting about the ins-and-outs of the infield fly rule and running the Reds out of a rally Thursday epitomizes the crap season the Reds are enduring…but Jason Bourgeois forgetting about the ins-and-outs of the infield fly rule and running the Reds out of a rally epitomizes the crap season the Reds are enduring.

Relevant Reds video clip, Part II: I mean this in the nicest way possible: Pena reminded me of a dancing bear during this savvy/agile slide Friday evening.

Semi-relevant Reds video clip: In honor of Tony Perez becoming the latest member of the Big Red Machine (joining Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan) to earn a bronze statue outside of Great American Ball Park this weekend, how about a clip of “Doggie” hitting one of the most important home runs in Reds history? With the Reds trailing 3-0 in the sixth inning of Game 7 of the 1975 World Series, Perez smacked Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee’s eephus pitch over Fenway Park’s Green Monster for a two-run home run. The Reds went on to win 4-3, garnering the franchise’s first world championship since 1940 and letting the baseball world know that the Big Red Machine could come through on the big stage after World Series defeats in 1970 and 1972.

Random movie scene of the week: The “playing through” bit in Caddyshack between Chevy Chase and Bill Murray is a humorous clash between nuanced dickishness (Chase) and glossy-eyed haphazardness (Murray). (“We have a pond in the back. We have a pool and a pond—a pond would be good for you.”)

Notes from around the National League Central: After yielding a five-run advantage late in the game, Pedro Florimon of all people lifted the Pirates over the Diamondbacks in 15 innings last Monday. (In a cruel twist of fate, Florimon was designated for assignment less than 24 hours later.) … Did you know that former Reds infielder/outfielder Dmitri Young’s nickname was “Da Meat Hook?” … Cubs pitching surrendered 19 hits in a 10-8 defeat to the Tigers last Monday. … Ryan Braun smacked his 252nd home run with the Brewers to pass Robin Yount on the club’s all-time list Wednesday. … Infielder Josh Harrison (thumb) and shortstop Jordy Mercer (knee, leg) returned this weekend for the Pirates after lengthy stints on the disabled list. … Pirates outfielder Starling Marte—one of the NL’s best players that consistently flies under the radar—robbed a home run and smacked a game-winning round-tripper Saturday. … The Cubs launched five dingers Sunday as the club completed a four-game brooming of the Braves, moving to a season-best 20 games over .500 at 71-51. … The Pirates have prevailed in each of Francisco Liriano’s last 10 starts.

Notes from around Major League Baseball: Former Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski wasn’t out of work for long, as the longtime executive was named the Red Sox’s vice president of baseball operations last Monday. Current Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, who constructed Boston’s 2013 World Series winner but presided over last-place AL East finishes in 2012 and 2014 (and likely another in 2015), declined to stay on with the club with Dombrowski moving into the role of the Red Sox’s chief decision-maker. … The Dodgers slid former Reds starter Mat Latos to the bullpen so they can are temporarily operate with a four-man rotation to expand the use (on normal rest) of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. … Mitch Moreland, Mike Napoli, and Elvis Andrus connected on back-to-back-to-back round-trippers for the Rangers Wednesday afternoon. … The Dodgers picked up longtime Phillies second baseman Chase Utley for a pair of prospects Wednesday. Utley had been with the Phillies since he was drafted by the organization in 2000, recording six All-Star appearances. … Rays starter Chris Archer logged a complete-game, one-hit shutout Thursday vs. the Astros. Archer added 11 punchouts and one walk. … He needed 134 pitches, but Astros starter Mike Fiers threw a no-hitter Friday vs. the Dodgers, striking out 10 and walking three along the way. … The Blue Jays tallied 36 runs—a franchise record for runs scored over a three-game series—in a sweep of the Angels over the weekend. … The Astros triumphed in their final at-bat for the fourth time in eight games Sunday. … Dodgers rookie Joc Pederson, who was the starting center fielder for the NL All-Star team and the runner-up to Todd Frazier in the Home Run Derby, has been stripped of his starting job as the youngster’s post-break doldrums continue.

Grant Freking is a Nuxhall Way and Cincinnati Magazine contributor, and also writes for Redleg Nation and The Ohioan. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.

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