Saturday, May 04, 2002

Struggling offense doesn't keep Reds from win column


Dunn, Kearns the exceptions to cold bats

By John Fay, jfay@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SAN FRANCISCO — The Reds are a statistical anomaly. They are winning without hitting. That doesn't happen often in the 70-home run era. But the Reds have clearly done it.

        They came into Friday's game here against the San Francisco Giants having won nine of their last 11.

        In those 11 games, they hit .221 as a team and scored an average of 4.3 runs a game. And on Friday night, they managed just one ninth-inning run in a 6-1 loss to San Francisco.

        “When you don't hit, you don't win a lot,” Reds manager Bob Boone said. “But we have somehow.”

        The winning has made the struggling tolerable. “It helps big time,” Sean Casey said. “It makes it a lot easier when you're not doing well if the team's doing well.”

        No one questions the ability of the Reds' lineup to produce runs. Ken Griffey Jr.'s absence is a factor. But the Reds have a lot of players struggling.

        “That's an understatement,” Boone said.

        It's easier, in fact, to list who's doing well. Adam Dunn (.318 with six home runs and 15 RBI in his last 19 games) and Austin Kearns (9-for-10 over his last four games) are the only regulars swinging hot bats coming into the three-game series.

        The list of the slumping, not including Friday's game, was longer:

        • Aaron Boone, five hits in his last 32 at-bats (.156).

        • Casey, hitless in his last 13 at-bats — his longest drought of the season.

        • Juan Encarnacion, three hits in his last 27 at-bats (.111).

        • Wilton Guerrero, two hits in his last 14 at-bats (.143).

        • Barry Larkin, four hits in his last 30 at-bats (.133).

        • Jason LaRue, four hits in his last 31 at-bats (.129).

        • Todd Walker, seven hits in his last 53 at-bats (.132).

        Overall, the Reds' team average was down to .240, 12th in the National League. They were ninth in runs. But they entered Friday with the best record in the NL at 17-10.

        Thursday's 3-2, 14-inning loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers added to those bad hitting numbers. The Reds' first six hitters in the order went 1-for-31.

        The Reds struggled in the series. They hit .155 overall and .090 with runners in scoring position in the series. But they won two of three.

        “Kevin Brown, (Hideo) Nomo and Odalis Perez had a lot to do with that,” Casey said.

        Boone has no choice but to ride it out.

        “There's probably something you can do,” Boone said. “But I don't know it. I haven't read that book. You keep playing and keep grinding. If you have guys that you're confident in their track record, they usually show up at the end.”

        Casey agreed.

        “We've got too many good hitters on this team for this to continue,” he said. “It's got to end at some point.”

        The players suffer much more than Boone and his staff.

        “I don't get as concerned,” Boone said. “If you're living it — believe me — you're concerned. You think about it 24 hours a day. You don't sleep. When you're going good, you don't think about it. You sleep good.

        “All we can do as coaches is try to relieve some of the pressure. The biggest part of the struggle is to get over the fact you're struggling.”

        But, again, Boone points out the Reds came to San Francisco 9-2 over their last 11.

        “Bottom line is we're winning,” he said. “That's the saving grace.”

       



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