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The Reds have a Brewers Problem

The Reds took one on the chin this weekend. And the weekend before that too. That’s two straight series where the Reds got their behinds handed to them by the Milwaukee Brewers. After nearly five weeks of complete and utter baseball bliss, suddenly, the Reds appear to be nearing full-scale panic mode. What gives?

For whatever reason, the Reds seem to have major, major issues handling the Brewers pitching. On the surface, that shouldn’t be too shocking. The Brewers have had a consistently strong starting rotation for a few years now, and closer Devin Williams has stepped in right where the departed Josh Hader left off. But it’s not like the Brewers staff has been dominant – their team ERA (4.00) ranks 11th in the league and isn’t too far from league average (4.29).

Evidently, though, the Brewers are kryptonite to the Reds. The stats from the ten games between the two sides are shocking – against Brewers pitchers, the Reds are batting .179 with a .267 on-base percentage and a .307 slugging percentage. You don’t need me to tell you this, but that’s atrocious. Basically, the Brewers have turned the Reds into the equivalent of Detroit Tigers infielder Javier Báez, and that’s pretty horrific because there might not be a player in baseball underperforming more relative to his monster contract than the $140 million walking-strikeout that is Báez.

It would be nice if there was somewhere to point the finger, but this was a total team implosion. You can’t get shut out three consecutive games and pin the blame on one player or coach. Even his Excellency Elly De La Cruz had a stinker of a weekend, failing to reach base in a series for the first time in his young career. It was a historic level of futility: during their shutout streak, they became the first team in at least the last 130 years with 0 runs and less than 8 hits in a three-game span, per ESPN Stats & Info.

It’s peculiar, isn’t it? During the recent stretch of brilliant Reds baseball, their bats led the way. But now, the bats have gone completely silent – and, with perfect timing as usual, the Reds pitching has started to come together. Oh right, this is how most baseball fans feel during the season… I don’t like this feeling.

This was a brutal time for the Reds hitters to fall asleep. Before this six-game stretch versus the Brewers, the Reds were 2.0 games up in the NL Central. Today, the Reds are 2.0 games back – and there aren’t many opportunities to make up the ground. The Reds play another series against the Brewers in Milwaukee next week… unless they meet in the postseason. And right now, Baseball Reference gives the Reds just a 31.2% chance to reach the playoffs.

Still, there are reasons to be optimistic that this stretch of futility was a mere fluke. The Reds haven’t been this bad against anyone else in the league, even the Atlanta Braves, who arguably own the best collection of pitching, top-to-bottom, of any team in the MLB. Maybe first baseman Christian Encarnacion-Strand, who was called up to start today versus the San Francisco Giants and is one of the Reds top hitting prospects, can be this team’s baseball defibrillator. Lord knows they need it.

What the last six games have taught us definitively, though, is that the Reds probably weren’t as good as they looked during that hot streak. But they probably aren’t as bad as they looked against the Brewers, either. Plus, the Reds will once again have the services of young starting pitchers Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo in August, when they both return from the Injured List. The Brewers have the Reds down in the dumps right now, but reinforcements are on the way.

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