CINCINNATI -- Reds manager Dusty Baker will continue to tinker with lineups while at the ballpark, and toss and turn while sleeping away from it, until one fundamental problem is solved.
How do the Reds get the big run-producing hits when they need them?
"We'll score one [one] day and eight the next, and we have a four-run average, but that's not really an average, typically," Baker said Sunday, prior to a 3-1 win over the Cardinals. "We have plenty of opportunities."
The Reds got a clutch hit when they needed it on Sunday, when Ryan Hanigan singled with one out in the seventh inning and Miguel Cairo on third. Still, Cincinnati went hitless in its first seven chances with runners in scoring position and was 1-for-8 in the game.
The problem has been magnified with the bases loaded. Combined over the previous two games against the Cardinals, the Reds had three bases-loaded chances with one out or less. They came up empty all three times. The Reds finished the weekend ranked 15th out 16 of National League teams with a .189 average when hitting with the bases loaded.
"I didn't want to know," Baker said.
Two-out hitting has been a sore spot, as well, as the Reds finished the day batting .210 with runners in scoring position and two outs.
"A lot of it has to do with being relaxed in that situation," Baker said. "Especially some of our younger guys, you see them grinding instead of relaxing and picking them up. You're learning through that. It's not something that just comes overnight. You realize that pitcher is not just going to throw the ball down there and let you knock fire from it. His job is to stop that guy from crossing the plate."
The Reds were ranked fifth in the NL in overall hitting with runners in scoring position (.262), but that did little to console the manager. And although the advantage was meager, they finished Sunday as the NL leader in runs scored (447), just three ahead of St. Louis.
"Can we be better?" said Baker. "Who are you comparing yourself to? To me, you compare yourself to yourself."