COMMENTARY| Reds Country undoubtedly felt that collective pit in the stomach Sunday when one of the steadfast forces in the Cincinnati Reds bullpen got torched protecting a two-run lead in the eighth inning and looked like he had completely forgotten how to pitch in the process.
But no worries about Jonathan Broxton and no worries about the Reds in the midst of a five-game losing streak that has sabotaged an early start to the season and left many fans wondering why the team is failing so badly right now.
The 5-7 start to the season matches the record the 2010 Reds had at the outset of that season and is not much better than the 4-8 start to last season, which like 2010 ended with the Reds winning the NL Central division.
Like last year, the Reds have had their share of offensive woes through the first 12 games of the season (four games with one run or less this year and six games of one run or less in 2012). Also like the last year, the Reds have faltered in extra innings to this point in the season (0-2 in 2013, 1-3 in 2012).
After the first game of the 2012 season, the Reds wouldn't have a winning record until May 4.
The 2013 Reds shouldn't have to wait that long to be a winning team again, especially with their upcoming 10-game homestand featuring the likes of the Miami Marlins and the Chicago Cubs. However, suffering a three-game sweep to a Pittsburgh Pirates team that hasn't had a winning season in the past 20 years wasn't exactly a boost of confidence that this Reds team is as dominant as it seemed it would be at the outset of the season.
Injuries to ace Johnny Cueto, set-up lefty Sean Marshall and cleanup hitter Ryan Ludwick are forcing the Reds to adjust early, but the Reds still have enough firepower at their disposal to offset the two likely short-term losses of Cueto and Marshall and the longer-term loss of Ludwick.
Second baseman Brandon Phillips has demonstrated he's a more than a capable cleanup hitter in place of Ludwick (14 RBIs in 10 games at cleanup), and the Reds have some depth to offset the short term losses of Cueto and Marshall, whether sizzling lefty Tony Cingrani is used in the rotation or relief.
Plus, there's some upside on the offensive side that may indicate that the Reds bats are warming up.
In his last at-bat of the six-game road trip finished Sunday, first baseman Joey Votto homered for the first time in 52 games. While Votto is an on-base machine like no one else, his power stroke had vanished. A slugging Votto for the upcoming 10-game homestand will do much to set off a scoring parade that will restore order in Reds Country.
Besides Votto, other Reds hitters also got off a different snide in the last game of the road trip. The sixth, seventh and eight hitters all snapped hitless streaks (Todd Frazier 0-16, Chris Heisey 0-14 and Ryan Hanigan 0-20).
So as bad as things turned for the Reds during the course of the current five-game losing streak, it's not bad enough to think that the Reds aren't going to turn the next 10 games at home into a barrage of fireworks that can inspire Reds Country with a rosier outlook than it's had recently.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. You can read his articles about the 2012 Reds season here.
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