WEST CHESTER, OH. – The Cincinnati Reds have lost four games in a row, being swept in the two-game series in Anaheim. Just when they had put together a good run of games with an impressive six-game win streak, they remind us who they are. Something we shouldn’t forget.

That’s not meant as a negative comment so much as a reality check. It’s easy and fun to get carried away with winning. That’s why we’re called fans, short for fanatics. Irrational optimism is part of the job description.

The Reds are no longer the terrible team they were for the past few years. That’s undeniable. But they also aren’t a particularly good team yet, either. It’s a hard truth, but this is what improvement usually looks like. It’s gradual. And not in a straight line.

The Cubs come to town this weekend. Then the Brewers and Cleveland before the All-Star break. All games at home. Plenty of good and important games coming up.

Someone from the pitchers’ union must have scheduled this game for 5 p.m. local time. The batters struggled with shadows until the middle innings. At times, it appeared the hitters couldn’t even see the ball.

Reds 1 – Angels 5 | Game 78 of 162

Box Score | Win Probability | Exit Velocity | Pitch Velocity

Run Prevention

Tanner Roark made it through 5.1 innings. He’d thrown 95 pitches, allowed four hits and two walks. He struck out six. The only run he gave up, thanks to some spiffy relief pitching, was a homer to Justin Bour. He was lifted in the 6th inning after walking back-to-back batters. Roark lowered his ERA to 3.36.

I suppose Reds fans can hope there’s still someone in a position of power in a front office who cares about ERA. But there are so many other better metrics to use, including composites like ERA that are superior to ERA, it’s hard to imagine. ERA is what Roark’s got going for him, at least for now. He’s an extreme fly ball pitcher. And he’s given up a higher-than-average amount of 95-mph EV balls. But Roark has only given up home runs on 7.5% of his fly balls this year. League average is around 15%. That’s going to catch up with Roark and so will his ERA. 

David Bell brought the high leverage relievers in right away, as he should. Amir Garrett came on to get two outs in the 6th and pitched the 7th. Bell had Raisel Iglesias warming up during the 7th just in case Mike Trout came to the plate, which he didn’t.

Trout did lead off the 8th and Bell brought Iglesias in then. It’s a perfect case of bringing in your best (or second-best) reliever in the tough situations. Trout, Ohtani and Upton in a 1-1 tie would fit that description. Iglesias pitched around Trout and walked him. He then threw wildly to first base on a pickoff attempt, with Trout moving to second. Ohtani singled to LF, but Trout stayed at third. Iglesias got an infield out and a strikeout. But then Angels third baseman David Fletcher hit a soft ground ball (82 mph EV) between third and short that went for a hit, scoring Trout.

But that was just the start, as Iglesias then grooved a pitch to Justin Bour, who smashed it 392-feet for a 3-run homer. Another spectacular failure for Iglesias in relief.

The narrative forming around Iglesias pitching in non-save situations misses the point. The vast majority of relief pitchers are inconsistent. Iglesias has been in the category of more consistent than usual for a couple years. But this year, he’s up and down. It isn’t about saves and non-saves. That’s a distraction.

Run Production

Not much for the bats other than a 405-foot homer by Yasiel Puig in the 5th. It was his 17th of the year.  The Reds had only five other hits, including a Jesse Winker double. They drew just one walk. The media’s “runners in scoring position” narrative is pretty ridiculous when the Reds only had six base runners. 

What’s Next?

The Reds (36-42) come home for a huge nine-game home stand, starting Friday with a three-game weekend series against the Chicago Cubs (43-36). The game Friday starts at 7:10 p.m. The starting pitching matchup features Sonny Gray and Cole Hamels (LH).