Monday, May 07, 2001

Padres 8, Reds 2

Reds lose last five on six-game homestand

By Chris Haft
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Ruben Rivera makes running catch.
(Craig Ruttle photos)
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        The Reds are balanced and staggering all at once. The team with the National League's best road record (10-5) also owns its worst home mark (5-10).

        After building a five-game winning streak, Cincinnati has lost five in a row. After posting a 5-1 record and batting .388 on a two-city trip, Cincinnati returned to Cinergy Field to hit .231 while finishing 1-5 on a dreadful homestand that ended with Sunday's 8-2 loss to the San Diego Padres.

        The burden for improvement rests with the starting rotation. Though the Reds mustered two hits and an unearned run through the first eight innings, Osvaldo Fernandez (4-2) took them out of the game by yielding seven runs and eight hits in 1 2/3 innings.

        Fernandez's effort hiked the starters' ERA to 9.89 in Cincinnati's past nine games. Not coincidentally, opponents have hit .335 in that span.

Bob Boone yanks Osvaldo Fernandez after 1 2/3 innings.
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  The Reds head on the road today following a 1-5 homestand. A look:
  • The Reds opponents scored first in all six games.
  • The Reds never had a lead in their five-game losing streak, trailing for the all 45 innings.
  • Reds starters had a 9.73 ERA for the six games, and only Rob Bell pitched as many as six innings.
  • The ERAs of the five starters:
  Pete Harnisch — 6.53;
  Osvaldo Fernandez — 6.55
  Elmer Dessens — 5.82
  Rob Bell — 4.91
  Chris Reitsma — 4.11
  • The team ERA went from 4.46 to 4.91 after allowing 45 runs.
  • The Reds hit only .231 (46-for-199) in the six games.
  • Deion Sanders went 1-for-14 after his 3-for-3 in the homestand opener.
        This left the Reds (15-15) at .500, the tell-tale sign of mediocrity.

        Fernandez might not be the next starter removed from the rotation, but Jim Brower looks to be the next one assigned.

        Brower saved the Reds' bullpen and their pride Sunday, surrendering one run and two hits in 5 1/3 innings. A winner in two of his three starts, Brower could leave his role as long reliever and return to the rotation.

        “For sure ... you can always make that move,” Reds manager Bob Boone said.

        Boone noted the Reds will remain in their current rotation — Pete Harnisch, Chris Reitsma, Elmer Dessens, Rob Bell and Fernandez — for at least one more turn, including the three-game series at Arizona beginning tonight.

        If the starters continue to pitch poorly, “I think you'd have to consider something,” Boone said. “But I find it hard to believe it's going to. We went through one rotation where nobody had much. I know we're better than that.”

        The Reds are 5-2 when Fernandez starts, but he owns a 6.55 ERA. That's what happens to pitchers who rely on finesse but lose command of their pitches. Unfortunately for the Reds, they have another starter, Dessens (2-2, 5.82 ERA) who fits the same profile. Harnisch (1-3, 6.53) throws relatively hard, but he also must be accurate to steer his fastball through the strike zone's upper reaches.

        “This staff has to hit spots consistently,” Boone said. Of Fernandez, Boone said, “His low pitches were about thigh-high. He wasn't cutting corners.”

Michael Tucker is greeted in the dugout after a good defensive play.
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        Nor is Brower overpowering. But in his five outings, including Sunday's, he usually has been able to succeed where other Reds have failed.

        “He was able to throw his off-speed stuff quite a bit,” catcher Jason LaRue said. “If he was behind on the count, he was still able to throw his curveball and change-up for a strike. If he got behind on the count, he'd use his sinker and get a ground ball. It sounds easy, but it's a heck of a lot more complicated than people think.”

        Said Boone of Brower's performance, “It's probably the best we've pitched inside in the last four days.”

        Brower's simply waiting to be handed the ball again.

Jason LaRue after grounding into a DP to end the game.
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        “I feel great right now, arm-wise,” he said. “It's a cliche to say I'd do anything they want, but that's true. I think the more they see me, the more they'll like me.”

        Silencing the Padres, who have won four games in a row and seven of their past eight, was small consolation to Brower. That's the curse of long relievers, who tend to appear when a starting pitcher gets knocked out of the game early.

        “The hardest part of my job is that when I get work, it means we're not doing well,” he said. “That (stinks).”

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