CLEVELAND -- Eighty-one games down, 81 to go. For the Reds to have any hope that the next 81 will be remotely better than what they've had to this point, the seemingly endless repetition of games like Friday's 6-0 loss to the Indians have to cease. The scenario was familiar as Reds rookie Daryl Thompson attempted to dodge danger for as long as he could while waiting for offensive reinforcements that never came. Cincinnati's lineup was limited to four hits over eight scoreless innings by Cleveland lefty C.C. Sabathia, who struck out 11. It was the seventh time they've been shut out this season, which is tied for second most in the National League.
"We certainly have to start hitting better, much better," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We're striking out far too much."It was the fourth time in the last five games that the Reds were held to one run or less. Three of those games, including Friday's, were blowouts. Cincinnati is 9-21 vs. sub-.500 teams this season and made struggling 37-43 Cleveland look like a world-beater. Thompson spent most of the first two big league starts of his career escaping what seemed like certain doom. In the right-hander's first nine scoreless innings of work between last Saturday at New York and on Friday vs. the Indians, he stranded a combined total of 19 base runners. "I was trying to avoid those situations, but stuff like that happens," said Thompson, who was charged with four earned runs and eight hits over five-plus innings with two walks and two strikeouts. "Whenever I get into those situations, I feel comfortable enough to get out of it." That included 12 stranded in four innings vs. Cleveland, which was why it was tougher to see Thompson's first blemish coming in the fifth. The bases were empty with one out, and there was apparent calm on the field despite brewing storms around the stadium. Yet Grady Sizemore smoked a 1-0 pitch for a home run into the right-field seats. "You can't make a living in this game throwing the ball down the middle," Thompson said. "A fastball down the middle, he made me pay for it. It was a mistake I could learn from." Everything came apart for Thompson and Cincinnati in the sixth. It started with Jhonny Peralta's leadoff walk. "I was pretty disappointed about that," Thompson said. "Tonight, it proved that leadoff walks aren't what you want, ever. Leadoff walks usually score, and they made me pay for it and started a big inning." Shin-Soo Choo's single followed, and after a wild pitch to Casey Blake that advanced the runners, Blake hit an RBI single to center field on Thompson's 99th and final pitch. Four more runs came with Gary Majewski on the mound. After a sacrifice fly, Sizemore hit two-run double to right field. The second runner, slow-footed Ryan Garko, scored from first base after first baseman Joey Votto held the cut-off throw too long and then softly threw the ball to second base. Center fielder Jay Bruce overran Jamey Carroll's RBI single for an error. "We had a couple of plays we weren't that alert on, and they capitalized," Baker said. "We're still in the process of teaching. You have young players, and sometimes they make mistakes. You tell them about it, and hopefully, they don't happen again." What's been more troubling than the defensive lapses is the lack of output of the Reds offense. The team is batting .214 (50-for-234) through seven games on the road trip, and Sabathia was not a path to perkier bats. After Norris Hopper's two-out single in the second inning, Sabathia retired the next 15 in a row and 17 of 18. Not only are the Reds a season-high nine games under .500 and 13 1/2 games out of first place in the National League Central, they came in ranked 13th out of 16 NL clubs with a .245 team batting average and 11th with 339 runs scored. Before the game, Baker maintained his usually optimistic outlook that a turnaround was possible. "Today is the halfway point," Baker said. "Let's see what to do from here on out and try to reverse this thing, [and] finish .500 or better. We'll make a push right before the All-Star break, take a break and then push right after the break. That's how you do it. It's like a basketball game, right before the first half and then, bam, right from the second half, a couple of quick three-pointers." On Friday, the Reds just threw up bricks instead.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.