CINCINNATI — Throughout this season for the Reds — including during their magical winning streak — they’ve often defied the odds by winning games without a good tee shot. So it’s no surprise that the lack of a strong starting performance contributed to the end of their winning streak on Saturday.
Back on the injured list rotation, Graham Ashcraft gave up three home runs, and the deficit proved tough enough for the Braves to hand Cincinnati a 7-6 loss at Great American Ball Park and end their streak. 12-game winning streak. .
“It’s not the result we want. We had a good thing. I hate that it’s over. But it’s baseball,” said Ashcraft, who allowed six earned runs and 10 more hits four scoreless innings on walks and two strikeouts.
Cincinnati’s rotation is ranked 28th in MLB with a 5.89 ERA and has seen injuries throughout its first five, with Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo currently on the disabled list. As Ashcraft returned from the injured list, Ben Lively went to IL with a pectoral muscle strain.
The Reds haven’t gotten a five-inning start from anyone other than rookie Andrew Abbott since Greene went six innings against the Astros on June 17.
“They don’t know they have to pitch a full game. They know that’s not what they’re being asked to do,” Reds manager David Bell said before the game. “You just have to go out and do your best – no matter how many innings. We will continue with this approach. We have guys who can go longer than five sets.
In his first six starts, Ashcraft had a 2.00 ERA, but he has a 12.82 ERA in his eight starts since. Prior to Saturday, he hadn’t pitched since being hit by a comebacker and sustaining a left calf bruise on June 8 against the Dodgers.
Against Ashcraft, Travis d’Arnaud threw a second-inning homer to right field, and Ozzie Albies added a first drive to right field in the third inning to help build Atlanta a 3-0 lead.
Matt Olson reached out for a low slider for the Braves’ third homer against Ashcraft, who was undeterred by the start. He noted that he felt his best physically since the start of the year.
“The two pitches I left were hit. Other than that, I felt like I was making some really good pitches,” Ashcraft said. “This team across the court is a very good hitting team…and so are we. We almost got back into this game at the end. That’s really it.”
A side that have won from behind in their previous five games and a Major League leader 27 in total, the Reds have once again remained relentless. Matt McLain’s two-out, two-run home run to right-center field in the bottom of the third inning reduced the deficit to one run.
Atlanta had a 6-2 lead when Spencer Steer hit a two-run drive to the left-field seats in fourth. The gap was 7-4 in the bottom of the ninth against the Braves closer to Raisel Iglesias when Jake Fraley homered one out to right field to tie Steer for the team lead with 11 homers.
“It showed a lot of us what we create here and what we are capable of on the baseball diamond night after night,” Fraley said. “It really showed the kind of identity that we are as a team. It put us on the map a bit in terms of other teams respecting who we are.”
Pinched hitter Will Benson went back-to-back with his center field drive to close the gap to one run. But McLain and Jonathan India struck to end the game and end the franchise’s longest winning streak since 1957.
“They’re a resilient bunch of guys. If you look at the positives from the end of the streak, that’s kind of the story of our team,” Steer said. “We’ll fight to the last out with those homers in the last inning to make it a one-run game. It was a good streak. I’d like us to get 100 runs in a row.”
Heading into this weekend, Bell was optimistic that the more than two-week break would give Ashcraft a chance to restart and get their season going again.
Ashcraft may have felt better, but the results weren’t.
“It took him a little while to settle in,” Bell said. “The speed was there. The pitches were there. The movement was there. It just took him a while to really lock it down, settle in, and start throwing better shots. When you’re facing a lineup like that- there, that little (of) start where you’re not as sharp can catch up with you. The main thing is that Graham is healthy and back in our rotation.