By HAL McCOY
The evidence is just plain obvious as to what the 2018 Cincinnati Reds are all about — the weakness and the strength.
It was self-evident Sunday afternoon/evening during a 7-6 loss to the San Diego Padres and their roster heavily-laden with rookies.
Weakness? Starting pitching, top to bottom.
Strength? The offense, top to bottom.
And Sunday’s display against the San Diego Padres is what the 2018 Reds are and what they are not.
As has happened so many times this season, the starting pitching put the team in a black hole and the offense nearly rescued the carnage.
Tyler Mahle, making his first start after an exile to Class AAA Louisville to recuperate and recoup, didn’t show that he learned much while he was away.
He was victimized by the Padres and manager Jim Riggleman’s quick hook. He pitched only three innings and gave up two runs, five hits and three walks to put his team behind, 2-0.
Then came Lucas Sims, one of two pitchers acquired from Atlanta in the Adam Duvall trade, and a guy the Reds hope might fit into the rotation.
He was not good, either. He survived only 1 2/3 innings and gave up four runs, three hits and a pair of walks, putting the Reds behind 6-1 in the fifth inning.
The offense, though, didn’t click off the ignition switch. It scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth on a two-run double by Jose Peraza and a three-run home run by Joey Votto.
It was Votto’s second home run in two games after he went 36 games without a home run and it tied the game, 6-6.
It stayed that way until heavy rains came as the Reds came to bat in the eighth inning, causing an hour-and-a-half of idle time.
When play resumed, Tucker Barnhart immediately doubled off University of Dayton product Craig Stammen, a native of North Star, Ohio.
Pinch-hitter Mason Williams failed to put down a bunt and struck out, pinch-hitter Eugenio Suarez struck out and Billy Hamilton flied to shallow left.
Riggleman brought in closer Raisel Iglesias for the top of the ninth and his second pitch landed in the left field seats, propelled there by Eric Hosmer, his third home in the last three games against the Reds, pushing the Padres ahead, 7-6.
San Diego closer Kirby Yates finished the Reds in the ninth by striking out Scott Schebler, striking out Jose Peraza and ending the game on a fly ball to the warning trick by Joey Votto.
Mahle? He was most fortunate that his line wasn’t plug ugly. The Padres filled the bases in the first inning and didn’t score. They put two on in the second and didn’t score.
The magic ended in the third when Hosmer singled and Austin Hedges homered to make it 2-0. Mahle threw 74 pitches in three innings and Riggleman deemed that more than enough.
Sims took over in the fourth and after striking out opposing pitcher Jacob Nix he issued a walk and Luis Urias hit a ball that threatened to be a moon landing — a 434-foot blast that crash landed halfway up the upper deck to make it 4-0.
The Reds scored a run in the fourth on Tucker Barnhart’s single to cut the deficit to 4-1, but Sims was touched for a single, a walk and a two-run double on a full count by Freddy Galvis and it was 6-1 in the top of the fifth.
San Diego starter Jacob Nix held the Reds without a hit for three innings and struck out the side in the third. It turned to tatters in the fifth with Cincinnati’s five-run uprising.
Hosmer’s ninth inning home run, an opposite-field wall-scraper to left, was San Diego’s third of the game and gained the Padres a split of the four-game series. And the Reds have given up 210 home runs, most in the majors.
And the search for viable starting pitchers continues, with only three weeks left in another lost season for the Reds.