The Cincinnati Reds went 2-4 on their road trip through St. Louis and Los Angeles. The Cardinals swept the Reds, who then turned around and took two of three from the Dodgers. Cincinnati’s losing streak continued for a bit, but then ended against the defending World Series champions.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway shouldn’t have to be said, but it seems that it is said several times a year: They play 162 games for a reason. Some weeks just aren’t going to be good. Other weeks are going to be great. Chances are good that a team is never as good or as bad as they look in those weeks. Cincinnati went on a big losing streak after a big winning streak. The optics were bad. But that’s all it is – optics. The Reds aren’t the worst team in the history of baseball, or anything remotely close to it. They also weren’t going to go 161-1 as they were riding that win streak following opening day.
Sonny Gray returned to form
The first two starts of the season for Sonny Gray didn’t go as well as he would have hoped. Taking on the Dodgers on Wednesday he looked like the Gray that everyone has known for the better part of his big league career. A vintage looking start saw Gray pick up 11 strikeouts in 5.2 innings against the Dodgers that often left the hitters wondering what just happened as they had 15 swings and misses on the day – mostly on his breaking ball.
But it wasn’t just the breaking ball that was working. After the first two starts of the year his average fastball velocity was just 92.1 MPH. On Wednesday he averaged 93.9 MPH with the fastball. While he was charged with the loss in the game that was more due to the fact that the best pitcher of his generation, Clayton Kershaw, was on the other side of the stadium hurling and the Reds couldn’t put a run on the board.
Jesse Winker can rake
The Reds struggled for a bit on the road trip to put together a full game where everything was clicking – thus the losing streak continuing in St. Louis. But we certainly saw Jesse Winker do all that he could to try and carry the offense. He’s leading the National League in hits (29) and average (.377). Winker went 10-26 (.385) on the road trip with three home runs. He drove in six and scored five runs.
The Reds need Eugenio Suárez to get going
It’s April 29th and Eugenio Suárez is hitting .125 with 38 strikeouts in 101 plate appearances. One month a season doesn’t make, but it’s been about as poor of a month as you can remember for a guy that’s hit in the middle of the order.
He’s been incredibly unlucky when he has made contact, rocking a .167 BABIP. But it’s the complete lack of contact that’s killing him at the plate right now. He’s not really chasing pitches out of the zone more than he has at any point in the past. He’s just not swinging at pitches in the zone nearly as much, and when he does swing at pitches out of the zone he’s missing them far more than ever before. His contact on pitches he’s swung at in the zone is down quite a bit, too. There’s a whole lot going on here. With Mike Moustakas back in the lineup after an injured list stint, perhaps having Suárez slide down the lineup a little bit until he gets going is the right move.
The bullpen is a work in progress
Looking at the collective ERA’s in the bullpen will make you feel nauseous. Tejay Antone has a 0.66 ERA. Carson Fulmer has a 3.21 ERA. Only Sean Doolittle is under 6.00 among the rest of the group.
Recent additions Heath Hembree and Ryan Hendrix (and Alex Blandino!) have had early success, but they’ve combined to throw 5.0 innings. Until Sal Romano’s blow up in the 8th inning against the Dodgers where he walked four batters and allowed six earned runs, the bullpen was showing signs of turning things around on the road trip. Up to that point the Reds relief crew had thrown 20.2 innings with just nine hits, eight walks, 21 strikeouts, and a 2.18 ERA.
With how the team treated the bullpen following the 2020 season, the Reds are probably going to need time to best figure out what works and what doesn’t.
Tyler Mahle is good
Ashley Davis wrote about the evolution of Tyler Mahle this morning at Redleg Nation, so go read that if you haven’t already. I won’t dive too deeply into this because Ashley covered it well this morning – but Tyler Mahle’s good at pitching. The 26-year-old has made five starts and posted a 1.75 ERA this season with 11 walks and 36 strikeouts while giving up two home runs. The only nitpicky thing you can try to find against him right now is that he’s barely averaging 5.0 innings per start. Welcome to the new baseball.