By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — It was Jerry Reed, not Cody Reed, who sang, “When you’re hot, you’re hot. When you’re not, you’re not.”
Cody Reed, though, can sing the second part of that verse, “When you’re not, you’re not.”
After retiring the last 18 batters he faced out of the bullpen this season, seven via strikeouts, the 24-year-old lefthander was given a starting assignment Saturday afternoon in Great American Ball Park against the Chicago Cubs.
And Reed was as cold as the damp, chill environment on the river, probably colder, as the Reds fell to the Cubs, 12-8.
In two innings, the 23-year-old bespectacled lefthander could barely keep the baseball in the same zip code — seven runs, four hits, five walks, three strikeouts and three wild pitches. REED HAD CATCHER TUCKER Barnhart leaving footprints all over the grass behind home plate to the backstop chasing errant and elusive baseballs.
It was a debacle as soon as it started. Reed walked leadoff hitter Kyle Schwarber on four pitches to start the game. Then he walked Kris Bryant.
He didn’t walk Anthony Rizzo, but probably should have. Instead Rizzo reversed a 1-and-1 93 miles an hour belt-high fastball over the right field wall and the Cubs led, 3-0, before echoes of The Star-Spangled Banner subsided.
Guess what? The first three Reds scored in the bottom of the first off Jake Arrieta on a three-run home run by Joey Votto. And Eugenio Suarez also homered to give the Reds a 4-3 lead after one inning.
ARRIETA PITCHED A NO-HITTER against the Reds at GABP last season, but that was quickly wiped away when Jose Peraza, leading off for the Reds, singled to center.
Scooter Gennett hit a double play ground ball to second base, but second baseman Javier Baez threw the ball into left field and both runners were safe. Two pitches later it was 3-3 when Votto pole-axed his sixth home run on a 1-and-0 pitch. Scouts watching Arrieta, who can become a free agent after this season, say his fastball is down three to four miles per hour from last season.
After Adam Duvall struck out, one of four times he struck out, Eugenio Suarez reached the left field stands with his fourth home run on a 1-and-1 Arrieta offering and the Reds led, 4-3.
AH, SOME RELIEF FOR Reed? Not for long. He had to pitch the second inning. And he retired the first two.
Then he gave up a single and walked the next two, loading the bases. The first pitch he threw to catcher Wilson Contreras, a 92 miles an hour fastball was ripped over the left center wall, a grand slam and a 7-4 Cubs lead.
When the third inning began, Reed stayed in safe cover in the dugout and he was replaced by Lisalverto Bonilla, making his Reds debut after a call-up Saturday from Class AAA Louisville.
Reed, with the media surrounding his post-game dressing quarters, was long and deliberate as he fiddled several minutes with a cellphone, dressed in slow motion, tied his shoes with the speed of a kindergartner. After a quick trip to the bathroom, he returned, took a deep sigh and faced the mob.
“You saw the game. It wasn’t that good,” he said, understating the obvious. “I just have to keep on keepin’ on, pretty much.”
Asked if he was jittery returning to the rotation, he shrugged and said, “I’ve started before, had good starts before (he is 0-and-8 for his career as a starter). I pitched well against the Cardinals one time so I know I can do it. I just have to do it.”
Asked if something was amiss mechanically, he quickly said, “No. Uh-uh. Nah. It is just frustrating in general. I’m not executing and doing what I need to do. We score eight runs and we lost. That’s tough.”
Bonilla became an innings-eater, five of them, but let the game get out of hand when he gave up a three-run home run in the sixth inning by Jason Heyward to push the score to 11-5.
For his five innings Bonilla gave up four rusn, three hits, three walks and struck out six.
IT ISN’T LIKELY REED WILL start again in five days. Rookie Davis is expected off the disabled list by then and Tim Adleman also is an alternative.
“It is one thing acknowledge it (first-inning jitters), it is another thing to correct it,” said manager Bryan Price. “With Cody it was about not getting the ball in the strike zone. It is hard to manage around a big first inning. A three-run first and a four-run second didn’t give him enough time to settle into that game.
“He is an outstanding young pitcher but you can consistently find yourself in those types of ballgames very often,” Price added. “It is hard to ask your bullpen to cover those innings and ask your players to fight back from those types of deficits.
“We are going to have to find a way to right the ship with Cody as a starter,.” said Price. “We have to find a way to get him over the hump in those early innings. I mean, he threw six perfect innings out of the bullpen against good teams and that’s impressive. It is in there. The talent is in there. It is part our responsibility but a lot of it is his responsibility to extract that talent and let it work.”
AFTER THE FIRST TWO INNINGS, Arrieta settled in to survive six innings, giving up five runs and eights hits, walking none and striking out eight. He gave up only two hits from the third through the sixth and he struck out four of the last five Reds he faced en route to lifting his record to 3-and-0. After Arrieta left, Suarez hit his second home run of the day and fifth of the season in the eighth inning, much too little and way too late to help rescue this one.
In the first two games of his series the Cubs have hit six home runs — three in each game — and have homered in 17 consecutive games in Great American Ball Park.
With the win, regardless of Sunday’s outcome, the Cubs clinched the series and have won seven of the last eight series against the Reds and 20 of the last 24 games.
For what it is worth, the Reds outhit the Cubs 14-9 and Votto drove in five runs. But the Reds are trying to abort a bit of a free fall. After starting 7-and-3, they have lost six of their last eight and fallen to .500 at 9-and-9.