WASHINGTON -- The Reds' profound hitting skid to start the season has felt infinite to frustrated fans. For the hitters actually going through it, it hasn't been fun either. But they have optimism that it will end. "I personally know we're going to hit," Reds right fielder Jay Bruce said on Sunday morning. "We always hit. In my opinion, it's better to do this now than in July or August. We absolutely have to do a better job, and that's the bottom line. With the exception of a few guys, no one is really hitting." Cincinnati entered Sunday's game vs. the Nationals batting .191 as a team, including .138 with runners in scoring position. Bruce had three home runs through the team's first three games, but the team came into the series finale homerless in the previous six games.
The individual batting averages have been low from key hitters. Scott Rolen entered batting .111; Ryan Ludwick was batting .150, and Bruce had dipped to .235. Reds manager Dusty Baker gave center fielder Drew Stubbs, batting .147, the day off from the lineup and started Chris Heisey, who came in hitting .188. The club's best hitter, first baseman Joey Votto, is batting .290, and believed that the team's good hitters will eventually rise to the level of their track records. "Whenever we start being like ourselves, we're one of the best offenses in the National League," Votto said. "We've got a choice. We can either panic through this whole thing, or be determined and continue to grind through and treat this as a nice early-season challenge that we'll overcome, and let the season play out. We'll prep for the rest of the season, and not today's shortcomings." One bright side during the Reds' skid -- the pitching staff had a 2.81 ERA over the previous five games. However, their record was 1-4. "We've played solid defense, I think, and have been pitching well," Votto said. "We're not hitting near where people expect. At some point, it will come around. If not, then oomph, poor Reds fans." Bruce didn't think it would come to do that. "It's still early," he said. "I don't think you can win or lose the season in the first couple of weeks. You can obviously put yourself in a better position."