This one can’t be pinned on the bullpen


CINCINNATI — With his long, curly blond hair and blond bushy mustache, Cincinnati Reds pitcher John Lamb resembles a Daguerrotype of General George Armstrong Custer.

And continuing the military motif on Saturday afternoon in Great American Ball Park, the Cincinnati Reds wore camouflage jerseys

The Seattle Mariners and King Felix Hernandez recognized Lamb and the Reds for what they are these days and applied a 4-0 headlock, Cincinnati’s sixth straight loss.

LAMB GAVE UP an early home run in the second inning to Leonys Martin with two outs in the second inning.

The Reds, though, had a crack at cracking King Felix in the third after he retired the first eight Reds. With two outs in the third, Lamb chopped one in front of the plate for an infield hit, Billy Hamilton poked a single to left and Tyler Holt walked.

That filled the bases for Joey Votto and he crossed swords with King Felix for eight pitches before lining a 2-and-2 pitch at Hernandez’s feet and King Felix stabbed it to end the uprising.

It all got away in the fourth when Lamb gave up back-to-back singles to Nelson Cruz and Dae-Ho Lee to open the inning. Then with one out Franklin Gutierrez launched a down-range home run that needed a parachute landing clearance, a 473-foot trip that landed two-thirds of the way up in the second deck, a three-run rip that made it 4-0.

AMAZINGLY, THE REDS filled the bases with two outs in the fifth and this time Votto grounded out to first, stranding six runners in two successive at bats.

The Reds filled the bases in the third and the fifth without scoring and went 1-2-3 in the other seven innings.

Hernandez went six and gave up no runs and four hits and didn’t have to face a resting Zack Cozart and a sore-backed Jay Bruce, the two best offensive weapons the Reds have of late.

The third, fourth, fifth and sixth spots in the Reds order did not get on base. Joey Votto was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, Brandon Phillips was 0 for 4, Eugenio Suarez was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts and Adam Duvall was 0 for 4. For the math challenged, that’s 0 for 16 with five strikeouts from the heart of the order.

“It didn’t work out today because we didn’t put a ton of pressure on them from an offensive standpoint,” said manager Bryan Price. “We were never able to get anything started, didn’t put our leadoff guys on.”

IT IS EASY TO put the blame for this one at Votto’s feet for stranding six, but Price jumped to his defense by saying, “He is human and he really wants to do something, be a difference-maker because he obviously knows we are in a huge hole right now. He want to be a big part of getting that turned around.

“When you have your No. 3 hitter struggling (.204) we have to collectively be better,” Price added. “We can’t throw so much on his shoulders to carry the load as we have to spread out the wealth and get it done with some of the other guys, too.”

Lamb lasted six innings and gave up four runs and six hits before departing and Price had to go to the usual suspects in the bullpen.

AND THERE WAS an alternative candidate sitting in the press box. Joy Dulen, a military journalist stationed in Fort Knox, KY., revealed she played for the Colorado Silver Bullets in 1997. The Silver Bullets, coached by Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro, were a women’s hardball team that played men’s teams and was sponsored by Coors beer.

“We were short of arms and I was about ready to pitch when the team was disbanded and Coors began its Coors Light NASCAR sponsorship,” said Dulen, who played softball at Western Michigan University.

Hey, could she do any worse?

Amazingly, the Reds bullpen pitched three shutout innings after Lamb let the dogs out, but after the game three members of the bullpen were shuffled off.

Jumbo Diaz and Keyvious Sampson, both recalled earlier this week (Wednesday), were optioned back to Louisville and Steve Delabar was designated for assignment.

The three replacement parts in the bullpen will be announced before Sunday’s game.

“We’re having a hard time finding a way to make guys comfortable in roles and to pitch well enough to define roles,” said Price. “Whate we have to shoot for now is guys who historically throw balls over the plate and maybe have a higher ground ball rate. And we have to do something that says it is not OK (to walk people and give up home runs). We’re just not competitive enough from a pitching perspective. At some point in time the bell tolls where there has to be change.”

That bell has been clanging for a long time now, so long and so loud the clapper might be broken.

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