CINCINNATI -- Before his struggling team played the Nationals on Wednesday night, Reds owner, chief executive officer and No. 1 fan Bob Castellini held a meeting with the players inside the clubhouse. "It was very encouraging, very positive," Reds manager Jerry Narron said without commenting on specifics. "It was short and to the point." Castellini's words were likely hoped to be a shot of morale for a team sick of losing. Had starting pitcher Kyle Lohse not been sick with the flu during the subsequent 12-7 loss to Washington, maybe the pep talk would have had the desired effect.
"Two days ago, I didn't even make it to the park," said Lohse, who pitched 4 2/3 innings and left the game with his team trailing 7-1. "Yesterday, I talked them into letting me go today. I thought I could go out there and do it. It just didn't work out well." Now owners of an 18-29 record following back-to-back losses to Washington, the Reds are tied with the Nationals and the American League's Rangers for the worst record in baseball. Cincinnati has dropped nine of its last 12 games and 16 of the last 22. Narron had little choice but to start Lohse and ride him as long as possible. Now that middle reliever Kirk Saarloos is part of the rotation, the lone remaining long guy was Victor Santos. Santos, however, pitched four innings Monday and wasn't available. Starter Bronson Arroyo pitched two innings, also on Monday, but would have gone in only had the game gone to extra innings. Lohse said that Thursday starter, Matt Belisle, was also considered to move up a day. But Belisle also hasn't felt well lately. "The situation the way it's been the last couple of times around with the bullpen getting taxed, I thought I'd try to go out and give us five innings to help out," said Lohse, who allowed seven runs -- six earned -- and nine hits with three strikeouts. "But it wasn't five very good innings I was able to give." Lohse, who was unable to do his between-starts throwing routine until playing catch on Tuesday, moved slowly to and from the mound each inning. While resting in the dugout during one inning, he could be seen with his head in his hands. Ryan Church's two-run homer in the first inning got Washington rolling against Lohse. Another run crossed in the third when a would-be routine fielder's choice play became a misadventure. With Brian Schneider running from second to third on Nook Logan's ground ball to shortstop, Alex Gonzalez's throw to third grazed Schneider and got by third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, then rolled into the dugout. The error throw allowed Schneider to score. Gonzalez later committed an eighth-inning fielding error for his first two-error game since Aug. 16, 2004. A Schneider two-run homer in the third made 6-1. In the fifth, Cristian Guzman led off the fifth with a triple to the right-field corner and scored on a Lohse wild pitch. Later in the inning, a pair of two-out base hits brought Narron from the dugout. "He just didn't have it tonight, really," Narron said of Lohse. "He battled through it and stayed out there. Not having a long guy tonight, he was his own long guy. He didn't make good pitches." The bullpen didn't fare much better than Lohse. Todd Coffey began the seventh by giving up back-to-back homers to Zimmerman and Church. In the eighth, Mike Stanton inherited Jared Burton's bases-loaded two-out jam and quickly cleared those bases with Church's double to center field. The tack-on runs diluted a seventh-inning surge by the Reds. With two outs, Cincinnati collected back-to-back singles and three-straight walks against the Washington bullpen. Encarnacion came through with a two-run single briefly narrowed the deficit to four runs. Lohse (1-6, 5.31) became the first Reds pitcher to lose six straight starts since Chris Reitsma in 2001. No clouds of influenza were hanging over Lohse's previous five starts. After he was 1-0 with a 1.91 ERA in his first four starts, including a stretch of 15 consecutive scoreless innings, the right-hander has been 0-6 with an 8.87 ERA. His previous start was a career-short 1 1/3 innings with five earned runs allowed Friday at Cleveland. "The last couple of times, he has struggled with his command a little bit," Narron said. "He knows he has to locate pitches. If he does that, he gets guys out. He definitely was not close to 100 percent tonight, but he took the ball and gave us his best effort."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.