MILWAUKEE -- After rolling into the All-Star break with gusto, the Reds went away for the four-day respite, and somehow they have yet to come back.
Although it's the same team that won of eight of 11 to end the first half, Cincinnati has yet to win a game in the second half. A winless road trip to New York and Milwaukee has produced a season-high six-game slide and a 51-50 record. What was a 1 1/2-game deficit behind the first-place Brewers at the break is now 5 1/2 games.
Here are five things about Cincinnati's recent woes as the club looks for a way to get back off the mat.
1. The offense has dried up (again)
During that pre-break surge, the Reds scored 52 runs in 11 games, for an average of just over 4.7 runs per game. In the losing streak, they have scored 12 runs in six games, for an average of two per game, while batting .183. All six of their home runs have been solo shots. With runners in scoring position, Cincinnati is a woeful 2-for-40 (.050) and has left 34 men on base while not leading for one full inning.
2. Where did the pitching go?
The offense did take two leads during the six games, but the pitching staff couldn't hold them. Both leads, when taken in the top half of an inning, were promptly erased in the bottom half of the same frame.
Reds starting pitchers have the fourth-best ERA in the National League, but they haven't pitched well lately, going 0-4 with a 4.75 ERA and just one quality start on the trip. The rotation's two All-Stars, ace Johnny Cueto and Alfredo Simon, lasted only five innings each vs. the Yankees.
3. The defense is faltering
Defense has been a hallmark throughout the season for the Reds. The club has the best fielding percentage and the fewest errors committed in the Major Leagues this season. But you wouldn't have known that lately, as they committed five errors on the road trip and have totaled eight miscues in the last 10 games.
This is where the injuries to Votto and Phillips have really shown the cracks forming on the team. Cincinnati first basemen lead the Majors with 14 errors, as a hodgepodge of fill-ins have played out of position to replace Votto -- including backup catcher Brayan Pena, regular third baseman Frazer, and even Bruce, who had never played there professionally until this month. That also means the normal defense the club gets at third base or right field is missing when those guys are at first base.
4. The last time it happened
The Reds haven't begun a second half with six straight losses since they went 0-8 following the 1991 All-Star break. Cincinnati also hadn't endured a winless road trip of at least six games since July 20-26, 2009.
And in case you're wondering about the length of the longest losing streak in Reds' history, they are not even close. The 1914 Reds dropped 19 games in a row from Sept. 5-23.
5. A trade is needed
Votto and Phillips aren't due back until the end of August, at the earliest. Following a hot stretch in late June and early July, Bruce is back in a funk, as the toughest season of his career has him batting just .222/.304./394, with 10 homers and 42 RBIs. The trio represents the three best bats on the club.
General manager Walt Jocketty has already stated publicly he is on the lookout for a bat to boost the offense. But with so many clubs in the hunt for a postseason berth, there are not a ton of sellers. Rays utility player Ben Zobrist has been popular in rumors, but Tampa Bay has caught fire and might not sell. Casey McGehee, an inexpensive corner infielder for the Marlins, would be a great addition but is reportedly not available. Cincinnati has also been linked to Phillies outfielder Marlon Byrd, but he will soon be 37 and could be owed up to $16 million over the 2015-16 seasons if an option vests.
Some players, including pitcher Mike Leake, have murmured they would like to see some trades to help the team stay in the race. Whether until the Reds make a move before or after the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, they need to find a way out of the current quagmire from within.
It doesn't get any easier when the first-place Nationals visit Great American Ball Park beginning on Friday.