2018 Cincinnati Reds
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2018 Cincinnati Reds got off to the worst start for the team since 1955 as they lost 10 of their first 12 games. It was not a major surprise that the team would not be competitive: their off-season moves had clearly demonstrated that they were looking for long-term success and not immediate wins, making them one of a number of teams "more interested in getting the first pick in the amateur draft then in winning the World Series", in the words of Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto. The poor start was the result of a combination of poor hitting - their 38 runs scored were the fewest in the National League at that point, and awful pitching, with an ERA of 6.13 the worst in the circuit. One of their two wins, their home opener on April 2nd, was secured by the smallest of margins, 1-0 over the Chicago Cubs thanks to a great pitching performance by rookie Tyler Mahle and a clutch relief outing by closer Raisel Iglesias, who managed to wiggle out of a bases-loaded jam in the 8th. Two of their best offensive weapons, 3B Eugenio Suarez, who had an OPS over 1.000, and OF Scott Schebler were on the disabled list, and other potential stalwarts, like 1B Joey Votto, were not producing: Votto was still looking for his first extra-base hit of the year, while OF Adam Duvall was hitting an anemic .103. Another loss on April 13th brought the record to 2-11.
The Reds continued to lose, and on April 18th, following a 2-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers that brought their record to a major league worst 3-15, manager Bryan Price and pitching coach Mack Jenkins paid the price. They were both fired, with bench coach Jim Riggleman being named interim manager until the end of the season, when a proper search for a long-term manager would be conducted. AAA Manager Pat Kelly was called up to become the bench coach, and Class AA pitching coach Danny Darwin to replace Jenkins. They finished April at 7-22, the only team in the NL Central under .500 and effectively already eliminated form postseason contention.
However, the Reds began to play better in May after losing five of their first six games, as starting on May 8th, they won six consecutive games against the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers, victimizing the latter team with a four-game sweep. They had until then just once strung as many as two back-to-back wins. The streak started immediately after the Reds had acquired troubled starting pitcher Matt Harvey from the Mets in return for back-up catcher Devin Mesoraco after the first game of the three-game series. Harvey pitched well in his debut against the Dodgers on May 11th, finally giving a sense that the team may actually be competitive. They did continue to play better, and in June, they won seven straight games, including their first four-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs since 1983. The seventh win, on June 24th, featured a seven-run 7th inning whose highlight was a three-run pinch homer by Jesse Winker.
The Reds posted winning records in both June (15-11) and July (13-11), although they cooled down in August, when they were just 9-19. It was their hitting that was powering the team to a more respectable level, as the pitching, and especially the starting pitching, was still a work in porgress. Among the hitting heroes were some expected names, like 3B Suarez, 1B Votto and 2B Scooter Gennett, and a more unlikely one in P Michael Lorenzen, who homered in three consecutive at-bats in June. On September 7th, in a 12-6 win over the San Diego Padres, rookie Phil Ervin had the first two-homer game of his career, and Schebler hit a grand slam. It was the 10th bases-loaded homer of the season for the team, setting a new franchise record.
Awards and Honors
- Bob Nightengale: "Reds face crucial crossroads after firing manager Bryan Price", USA Today Sports, April 19, 2018.