CINCINNATI -- Reds manager Dusty Baker doesn't know exactly what to do to solve the Reds' late-game pitching woes, but he is sure of one thing: Extending closer Aroldis Chapman to pitch two innings is not the solution.
With Thursday's 14-inning loss to the Cubs, Cincinnati has lost six times after leading through seven innings. The eighth inning has been the biggest killer for the Reds, as they've lost only once after taking a lead into the ninth. As a result, Baker said he's heard all kinds of suggestions for what to do to fix the problem.
"Everybody keeps asking me, and you can quit asking me. I'm not going to use Chapman in the eighth, because it's too early," Baker said. "If something happens to Chapman, then you're stuck with the people that everyone wants you to stay away from. The days of the eighth and ninth closers, that's kind of by the wayside."
The Reds again lost an eighth-inning lead on Friday, as Bronson Arroyo allowed a tying homer to Martin Maldonado. But Cincinnati came back to win, 4-3, in 10 innings. Chapman pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts.
Baker has tried various setup men this season, including Jonathan Broxton and Sam LeCure, who have each faltered of late. On Thursday, LeCure surrendered a one-run lead in the eighth inning, and Broxton allowed the winning run in the 14th. But LeCure was good on Friday, as he got a pop out after coming on with the bases loaded in the eighth.
Baker was hesitant to use Broxton in Thursday's loss to the Cubs because the right-hander was experiencing right elbow soreness, and on Friday, the Reds announced that an ultrasound shows Broxton has swelling in his right elbow and is day-to-day.
Chapman, meanwhile, has converted on 17 of 19 save opportunities. However, Baker said extending him is not on the table, as it would limit his availability or, worse yet, potentially hurt him.
"I don't know if you've noticed, but this guy has a big ritual," Baker said of Chapman. "They all got a ritual, but he's like a high-price sports car that takes longer to get loose than my little truck. I can just jump in my truck and be gone. This guy's got 12 cylinders that you have to loosen up and get ready, and it takes time.
"I'm doing the best I can to protect him. Again, I repeat, everybody has to do their jobs, and it doesn't always work like that. But I hate blowing these games late. The guys hate it."
Baker said the Reds have to either hope guys such as Broxton or LeCure, who posted a 1.16 ERA in his first 21 appearances this season, start pitching like they're capable, or they have to go after a reliever on the trade market. That would be difficult, according to Baker, because more teams are in the hunt and aren't as willing to sell with the extra Wild Card Game.
"We just got to figure out a way to get to Chapman," Baker said. "To bridge that gap."
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less