CINCINNATI — The Reds’ bullpen — ranked second in the National League in ERA — has been a big part of the Reds ability to compete in the NL Central to this point. But during a 7-2 loss to the Indians on Saturday at Great American Ball Park that snapped Cincinnati’s three-game win streak, relievers Michael Lorenzen and Matt Bowman combined to give up five runs over the eighth and ninth innings.
With one game left in the nine-game homestand and before the All-Star break, Reds relievers have a 9.30 ERA with five home runs allowed.
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It was a 2-2 game when Lorenzen took over in the seventh for starter Anthony DeSclafani. Following a 1-2-3 inning, he returned for the eighth. Trouble came after Jose Ramirez hit a one-out double to right field. On the previous 1-2 pitch, Ramirez checked his swing and the Reds thought he might have went around. It was ruled a ball.
“Honestly, I can’t do anything about it. I looked at it. It was really close,” Lorenzen said. “I can’t do anything about it. Next time, just make him actually swing and not check-swing. It’s all on me.”
One strike from getting out of the eighth, Lorenzen’s 3-2 changeup was clubbed by Roberto Perez to right field for a two-run homer.
“Just left it up. Bad pitch,” Lorenzen said. “Same thing with St. Louis with [Paul] DeJong [on June 6]. “Same exact thing except he pulled his homer. Close game, give up a two-run home run to basically lose the game for your team. It was like déjà vu all over again.”
Cincinnati’s bullpen has given up 36 home runs this season, tied for the fewest in the Major Leagues.
It wasn’t a good ninth inning for Bowman, who gave up three runs after a leadoff double to Bobby Bradley. Following a two-out intentional walk to Carlos Santana, Bowman issued a four-pitch walk to Jason Kipnis that loaded the bases and went from a 1-2 count to walking Ramirez to force home a run. Jake Bauer’s two-run single put the game away.
Reds manager David Bell has relied heavily on Lorenzen, Amir Garrett, David Hernandez and Raisel Iglesias. But Hernandez has been struggling of late and Garrett went on the 10-day injured list Thursday with a left lat strain. Also on the IL, lefty Wandy Peralta (right hip flexor strain), is slated to begin a rehab assignment on Sunday with Triple-A Louisville.
Saturday was an opportunity to give some work to Bowman, who saw his ERA jump from 2.35 to 3.86 in just one poor outing. He hadn’t pitched since Monday.
“He hasn’t pitched a lot. He certainly is something that we believe in and trust,” Bell said. “I would put him in the game in that situation again, for sure. He struggled a little bit today, but he’s been a good pitcher. We know what he’s capable of. He’ll get more opportunities just like that.”
Puig finishing first half strong
Following a poor first 2 1/2 months of his first season with the Reds, right fielder Yasiel Puig has come on strong. Puig came within a triple of hitting for the cycle as he loomed large with three hits, including a two-run home run in the loss.
Cincinnati was trailing, 1-0, in the bottom of the first inning when Puig attacked Cleveland All-Star starter Shane Bieber’s 1-2 slider and lined it hard to the opposite field for a two-run homer that cleared the right-field fence. According to Statcast, it had an exit velocity of 105.7 mph.
It tied Puig for the team lead with 20 homers and it was his ninth in 19 games since June 15. Since then, he also raised his average from .223 to .253 with 51 RBIs and a .795 OPS.
“This is my best first half of my career, I believe,” Puig said. “I never hit 20 home runs before in any season before the All-Star break.”
Puig hit 23 home runs last season for the Dodgers and a career-best 28 in 2017.
Over each of the past three seasons, Puig has been better after the All-Star break. In 2018 he went from a .265 average and .787 OPS to .270 with an .875 OPS. In ‘17, he was at .251 and .777 in the first half and .278/.907 in the second half. And in ‘16, he was .256/.705 compared to .284/.837 after the break.
“Knowing how much he wants to win as we play in these important games, hopefully, all the way through, I think that brings out the best in who he is as a player,” Bell said. “It’s great to see. He’s a big part of our offense.”
In the fourth inning, Puig returned and smoked a drive to center field that banged off the wall, inches from another homer. The shot that Statcast recorded with a 110.2 mph exit velocity went for a double.
Puig made a baserunning gaffe, however, as he ran into an out at third base running on Nick Senzel’s fielder’s choice grounder to Bieber.
“When you’re in that situation, you have to see it past the pitcher,” Bell said. “It happens where sometimes you react off the bat. If you don’t tell yourself that over and over, sometimes you react and it’s too late.”
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.