By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Reds are playing baseball these days with about as much punch as cherry Kool-Aid.
On a hot night in Great American Ball Park, where baseballs normally are hit so hard in 90-degree weather that they can be tracked by air traffic controllers at Lunken Airport, the Reds were a bunch of low flyers who barely got off the ground.
The sum total of their offense was a late-game solo home run by Devin Mesoraco. So it was the Los Angeles Dodgers 3, the Cincinnati Reds 1. Seven straight losses. And mounting and counting.
The major problem lately has been the ineffectiveness of Billy Hamilton and Zack Cozart at the top of the batting order. They are a combined 3 for 49.
DODGERS LEFT HANDER ALEX Wood came into the game undefeated in 2017 and left the game undefeated in 2017. With eight innings of one-run, four-hit, five-strikeout pitching (89 pitches), Wood’s glossy record jumped to 7-and-0 with a 1.90 earned run average.
His opponent, Reds starter Tim Adleman, pitched good enough to win on most nights like this in GABP, but on this night he pitched just bad enough to lose — six innings, two runs, five hits, four walks, four strikeouts.
Both runs off Adleman came with two outs and nobody on. Joc Pederson homered in the second for a 1-0 lead.
Adleman issued a two-out walk to Justin Turner in the third, then singles by Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor to make it 2-0.
The Dodgers added a third run off Drew Storen when he gave up two walks and a two-out single to pitcher Wood, a ball he poked just over the first base bag to make it 3-0.
THE REDS GOT ON THE scoreboard in the eighth on a two-out home run by Devin Mesoraco.
The only real threat mounted against Wood fizzled via some spotty base running by the Reds in the second.
Eugenio Suarez led the inning with a double and took third on a ground ball. Jose Peraza grounded to short and Suarez tried to score against the shortened-up infield and was thrown out at home. Then Peraza was picked off first base.
THE REDS PUT UP A mild squeak in the ninth against LA closer Kenley Jansen. Billy Hamilton led the inning and had his hand and bat simultaneously hit by the ball when he tried to bunt. After milling around in agony, Hamilton stepped into the box and bounced a ground rule double into the right field seats, only his third hit in his last 31 at bats.
That only seemed to anger Jansen. He struck out Zack Cozart on three pitches, struck out Joey Votto on three pitches and just to put a point of emphasis on the proceedings he struck out Adam Duvall on three pitches. That was nine pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts and Jansen’s 14th save.
Hamilton’s 3 for 31 and Cozart’s 0 for 18 at the top of the Reds order puts a severe crimp in the Reds offensive scheme.
“They are having a little bit of a run of bad luck and a struggle and that happens,” manager Bryan Price said of Hamilton and Cozart. “They’ve been so good at igniting the offense. Billy had been getting on base at a .335 to .345 (on-base percentage) and Zack has been killing the ball, a great lead-in to Votto, Duvall, Suarez and Schebler.
“That is inherent with baseball that you will have periods of time when thing don’t go your way,” said Price. “I’m confident both those guys will regain their form.”
HAMILTON STOOD IN FRONT of his locker after the game with his left hand encased in a cake of ice.
“As long as it doesn’t swell up too bad I’m going to play (tomorrow),” said Hamilton. When it was mentioned that he doubled after the ball smashed into his hand, Hamilton laughed and said. “I wasn’t able to swing so hard and I guess that’s what I need to do from now on, not try to swing the bat so hard, just put it in play so good things can happen.”
Hamilton knows he is in a free fall but says it is not mechanical. He believes it is mental.
“It has been a struggle for me lately and it is something I have to keep learning from,” Hamilton added. “I need to keep battling back because I have to be on base for us to go. I’m not doing my part right now. It’s in my head and not my mechanics, more me putting pressure on myself when it isn’t going well.”
COZART SHRUGS HIS MINI-SLUMP off by saying, “I feel like I’m putting good swings on the ball, but not necessarily hitting the ball like I want. They are pitching me pretty tough, making some good pitches and I’m just up there battling.
“I felt way better today but just didn’t have anything to show for it (0 for 4) and it is something I’ll fight through,” Cozart added. “It is tough to get stuff going when me and Billy aren’t doing anything. We have to start getting on base for the guys in the middle of the order because that’s when we were playing real well — it seemed like one of the two of us was always on base and the other guy were driving us in. Both of us have to get better.”