Cincinnati Reds lose to Chicago Cubs; enter Trade Deadline at 15-19


Joey Votto talked about his three-game benching and what’s changed for him at the plate with two homers in his last three games.

Cincinnati Enquirer

Trying to rally from a five-run deficit in the seventh inning Sunday, Nick Castellanos stepped into the batter’s box with the bases loaded and two outs.

It was do-or-die time for the Reds’ offense.

Castellanos hit a line drive toward shallow right field, but Chicago Cubs second baseman Nico Hoerner made a diving catch to his left. Hoerner slammed his right hand on the outfield grass in excitement. Castellanos threw his helmet to the dirt in frustration.

That was the last chance the Reds had at keeping up with the Cubs’ offense in a 10-1 loss at Great American Ball Park, splitting their four-game series. The Cubs hit six homers – two apiece from Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Ian Happ. It was the first time in MLB history that all three starting outfielders hit multiple homers in the same game, according to ESPN. 

The Reds have a 15-19 record entering Monday’s 4 p.m. MLB Trade Deadline and they sit 1.5 games out of a playoff spot. 

They’ve entered the do-or-die portion of their season.

“Obviously, there were some rough stretches early, but I think we feel really confident,” Joey Votto said. “I think that confidence is going to carry over to the back half of the season, for sure. I feel strongly about that. I look forward to being a part of that. We’re the type of team that, get us in the playoffs, I think we’re going to be a nightmare.”


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The Reds told teams earlier in the week, including reportedly the Minnesota Twins, that they had no plans to trade Trevor Bauer, who will be the top pitcher on the free-agent market in the winter.

Since they aren’t trading Bauer, their top trade chip, they’ll be classified as buyers. They could use another bench bat and a veteran reliever, but almost all contenders are in the market to strengthen their bullpens. 

“I know we love our team and that has not changed after one month,” said manager David Bell, adding he didn’t know what to expect at the deadline. “We have a month to go, and we’re in it. We play the way we’re capable of, that’s our focus. We’ll see how it goes (Monday). I love the guys on our team. You never would want to see anyone go, so that’s my hope.”

If the Reds stand pat at the trade deadline, it will emphasize their belief that some underperforming players will improve in the second half:

• Votto, who was benched for three games last week, hit a solo homer to center in the sixth inning Sunday. He has two homers and a double since he returning to the lineup for Saturday’s doubleheader. He’s tinkered with his stance, standing more upright, to try to create more power. 

“I’m not going to hide the fact that I don’t like sitting,” he said. “I’m aware that production comes with a job and I recognize I wasn’t doing well enough. I only have so much control over whether or not I play, especially when I’m playing poorly.

“I don’t know if the benching had something to do with it. Maybe. You get put in a position where you feel like your career is threatened or the opportunity to be a part of a winning team is threatened, the opportunity to do something you’ve done since you were a little boy is threatened, perhaps. If I kept playing every day, I wasn’t going to stop attacking and I wasn’t going to stop making adjustments.” 

• Eugenio Suárez looked like he took a step forward with a six-game hitting streak last week, which included four homers, but he’s hitless in his last 10 at-bats and hitting .174 this season. The Reds need him to anchor the middle of the lineup. 

• Shogo Akiyama showed encouraging signs in Sunday’s loss with two hits, a walk and a stolen base. He even hit a double off lefty José Quintana, one of his rare at-bats against a left-handed pitcher.   

“I want to get in a groove,” Akiyama said Saturday. “I don’t think I’m there yet.”

• Tucker Barnhart continues to work well with the pitching staff, but he’s hitting .172 with two extra-base hits in 58 at-bats. 

• Michael Lorenzen has yielded one unearned run across his last four appearances, but the Reds will need him in some high-leverage spots. Lucas Sims and Amir Garrett are the main setup men in front of closer Raisel Iglesias. 

The Reds shook up their roster and designated three players for assignment since Aug. 24: Phillip Ervin, Cody Reed and Pedro Strop. José García will be the regular starter at shortstop. Aristides Aquino mysteriously hasn’t been given much of an opportunity, but he should be a candidate for the next promotion. Tyler Stephenson is another option to be called up as a right-handed power bat. 

“I do feel like a lot of things are going in the right direction,” Bell said. “Our bullpen is turning around. Our starters have been consistent and have been a strength of our team from Day One. Our offense is fighting through this, and the results have been better. We got to continue to work to keep that going, but definitely signs of life.

“We play the way we know we will, we’re going to be right there. You didn’t feel great about today, but almost immediately, you get excited about what’s to come and look forward to the big series coming up.”

The Reds will begin a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday. If the Reds win two of the three games, they could slide into second place in the division, which is an automatic playoff spot.

Lose the series and they sink further in the playoff race.

“I feel like we are the type of team that has a really strong chance at getting hot for a long time,” Votto said. “I think we are very dangerous, and I think that we feel that. We feel motivated every single day to compete and win. I never get the sense that we’re just rolling it out there and hoping to win.”

A big reason for the Reds’ optimism is their starting rotation, which is headlined by Bauer, Castillo and Sonny Gray. Castillo allowed five hits (three homers) and four runs in five innings Sunday. He gave up only one homer in his first six starts.

The Reds have a 1-6 record in Castillo’s starts this season. 

“We’ve played really poorly behind him,” Votto said of Castillo. “We definitely have to be better when our best guys are out there. Fortunately, we just seem to keep having a best guy go out there and start. That’s why I think we’re dangerous.

“We’ve got to be better for Luis. This is a team effort. There is no one person, but it’ll flip. He’ll have his big games. We’ll have big games behind him. Things will change.” 

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