By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — It won’t be long before Cincinnati Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani finally comes off the disabled list and that means somebody currently in the starting rotation is going to exit stage right.
And who might that be?
Based on what he has done so far, especially in his last two starts, even though he is the grizzled veteran of the staff, even though he is making $21 million this year, the logical choice is Homer Bailey.
For his second straight start, it was bombs away against Bailey, this time against the Chicago Cubs, a 8-1 loss Friday night in Great American Ball Park.
For the second straight start, Bailey didn’t make it out of the fifth inning and for the second straight start he gave up 10 hits.
Bailey is now 1-and-6 with a 6.11 earned run average. Ironically, Bailey’s only win was in his previous start in Los Angeles when he pitched five innings and gave up three runs and 10 hits. And the Reds are 1-and-9 in the 10 games he has started this season.
This time, though, his teammates could not give him the runs they gave him against the Dodgers. Chicago left hander Jon Lester, now 6-and-1 for his career against the Reds, kept the bats muzzled.
Bailey’s night began as a nightmare after the game’s start was delayed an hour and 33 minutes by rain. The first five Cubs in the first inning hit safely and they scored three runs.
Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant doubled. Anthony Rizzo singled for a run, Willson Contreras singled for a run and Addison Russell singled for a run. It was 3-0 before Bailey recorded an out.
The Cubs made it 4-0 in the third when Javier Baez hit into a double play with the bases loaded.
It became 6-0 in the fifth on a single by Addison Russell, a run-scoring double by Middletown’s Kyle Schwarber and a squeeze bunt by Lester on which first baseman Joey Votto could have thrown the runner out at home but was out of position to throw home and had to take the out at first.
By the sixth inning, Addison Russell had four of the Cubs’ 11 hits.
“I went back and watched (the tapes) and it was a little frustrating because there were some good pitches that they did a good job of hitting,” said Bailey. “That was frustrating because, man, that’s just the way it goes.
“That’s a good offense over there and they did a pretty good job,” Bailey added. “Tucker Barnhart (catcher) did a good job of calling pitches and sometimes they just don’t go the way you want them to.”
After a good start during which his teammates didn’t give him run support, Bailey knows his recent performance has been subpar as he has given up 65 hits in his 53 innings this season.
“It’s tough on me, tough on the coaches, tough on everybody else,” he said. “They definitely expect me to do a little bit better.”
Manager Jim Riggleman, ever the diplomat, praised Bailey for his grit and said, “Homer battled. He was getting knocked around but I have to top my hat to him. He kept battling. Real quick it was a 4-0 ball game, something you can overcome. We couldn’t do anything with Lester, which was maybe the bigger issue.”
With a doubleheader scheduled for Saturday, Riggleman did not want to use up his bullpen so he handed the ball to Jackson Stephens and said, “The rest of the game is yours.”
And Stephens did a credible job over 3 2/3 innings, holding the Cubs to one run and that scored on a two-out bases loaded broken bat infield hit by Javier Baez.
“Stephens really saved us,” said Riggleman. “With a doubleheader tomorrow and a game Sunday we needed to use as few guys (out of the bullpen) as possible. Jackson giving us three-plus really helped. A good effort, yes, but we just couldn’t get much mustered against Lester.”
The Reds? They had one hit, a leadoff single by Scooter Gennett in the fourth inning. The second hit was an Adam Duvall home run leading off the fifth inning. Other than Duvall, no other Reds batter discovered second base. In Lester’s nine starts, he has given up three or fewer runs eight times.
Lester pitched six innings and gave up one one run, two hits, walked one and struck out eight, improving his record to 4-and-1 with a 2.53 earned run average.
Riggleman shuffled his batting order and for the first time since 2014 Joey Votto batted clean-up. He struck out to end the first inning with a runner on first, grounded out in the fourth and walked in the seventh.
While Reds, now losers in three of their last four games, collected only two hits, the Cubs put together 15, four by Russell, three by Willson Contreras and two each by Bryant and Rizzo.
And the Reds struck out 15 times, three by catcher Tucker Barnhart. Ten of their last 13 outs came via strikeouts. So, the Reds gave up 15 hits and struck out 15 times. It could have been a lot worse, too. The Cubs stranded 14 runners.
When the Cubs play the Reds, they are run-thirsty. The last 40 times they’ve played the Reds, they’ve scored five or more runs 32 times and they are 28-4 in those games.