Final R H E
Cincinnati Reds (18-24)
0 5 0
Chicago Cubs (25-18)
3 4 0
W: Mills (4-3) L: Mahle (1-2)
Statcast | Box Score | Game Thread

And so it continues. Another decent pitching effort wasted by a complete lack of Cincinnati Reds offensive production in a 3-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs. To make the playoffs, this team needs to not just win series but to put a long winning streak together. We keep hoping to see some signs that that may be possible, but hope is not working out to this point. The loss drops Cincinnati 6.5 games behind the first-place Cubs.

The Offense

The not-real-surprising bottom line is, according to the Enquirer’s Bobby Nightengale, the Reds are 0-15 when they score fewer than three runs; 18-9 when they score at least three. Think for a moment about the likelihood that Cincinnati would score two or fewer runs in 36 percent of their games — more than one out of every three! Not even amazing pitching can overcome that.

After being shut out tonight, they’ve gone scoreless the last 15 innings of play — not the first streak like that in this shortened season.

Here’s my two cents worth on the excellent work Doug Gray has done to document the fact that the Reds have a historically low batting average on balls in play (BABIP):

You’ll note below that Dick Williams refers to the “bad luck” reflected in the BABIP number. The graphic above from Doug shows that even the worst teams in terms of BABIP (at least prior to 2020) have an average of above .260. Someone will correct me if I am wrong on this, but the thought process seems to be that the Reds are really, really unlucky instead of really, really bad.

I’m not sure which is more correct. It seems to me that if the team is unlucky on its average on BABIP, there would be a ton of line shots hit right at opposing fielders, and great running or diving catches by opposing defenders on both bloopers and balls in the gap. I watch the vast majority of innings this team plays, and I am not seeing that. I’m seeing grounders, popups, and flyballs hit by the Reds that are not very challenging to opposing defenders.

What I saw tonight was Shogo Akiyama take two pitches the other way for base hits — not trying to hit every pitch as hard as he can, but hitting it where they ain’t. Pinch-hitter Brian Goodwin hit a grounder up the middle where nobody was standing and got a hit. Mike Moustakas hit a ball hard into the gap for a double. He also hit a line drive with an exit velocity of 87.2 mph and an xBA (expected batting average) of .520 that was caught by Javier Baez. Perhaps that’s the sort of bad luck being cited, but I haven’t seen as many of those as I would expect, given the statistics.

I’m not casting aspersions on Doug’s point in any way. His work is revealing and has prompted much discussion. I am fascinated by the analytics, but they don’t always connect to what I’m seeing. Maybe that’s the value of data, to bring greater clarity to what long-time fans like me think their “eye test” is producing.

The Pitching

In a season of precious few bright points, Tyler Mahle has been one. Tonight he looked absolutely dominant in five of the seven innings he pitched. He had a couple of bad pitches, and with the Reds in their current state, that means a loss. He tied career highs with seven innings pitched and 10 strikeouts. I’ve been down on Mahle for awhile, but he has shown me something in the past month. He looks like a legit starting rotation option for the rest of this season and for 2021.

Notes Worth Noting

I have not verified the numbers in this tweet, but if correct … wow …

Up Next for the Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds vs Chicago Cubs

Wednesday, September 9, 8:15 pm ET

Trevor Bauer (2.05 ERA, 3-3) vs Yu Darvish (1.44 ERA, 7-1)