By HAL McCOY
It is 28 and counting and the Cincinnati Reds wish they couldn’t count that high.
The Reds were shut out Friday night by the Pittsburgh Pirates, 2-0, the third straight game in which they have been blanked and their scoreless futility has reached 28 innings.
The last time the Reds suffered the ignominy of three straight shutouts was in April of 1989 and the third baseman on that team was Buddy Bell, father of current manager David Bell.
That, of course, has nothing to do with the current state of affairs, where the team has wasted three straight sterling pitching performances.
First it was Luis Castillo and then it was Tyler Mahle and on Friday it was Sonny Gray pitching his heart out only to suffer a loss.
To make it worse, the 1-and-6 Reds have been shut out four times and they’ve scored 11 runs in seven games.
It seems inconceivable that the starting rotation has a 2.17 earned run average but the team has lost six of seven.
On this night it was Sonny Gray who pitched his heart out only to have an ‘L’ slapped next to his name. He pitched six scoreless innings and gave up one hit and at one point retired 16 in a row.
But he gave up a leadoff single to Starling Marte to open the seventh and threw a wild pitch. Marte was later thrown out at home, but with two outs Jung Ho Kang singled to left to score a run and end Gray’s night. He pitched 6 2/3 innings and gave up one run, three hits, didn’t issue a walk and struck out seven.
Pittsburgh starter Joe Musgrove, though, was even better, facing a bunch of guys who seemingly are using bats with holes in the barrel.
Musgrove went seven innings and gave up no runs, three hits, walked one and struck out eight.
The Reds did fritter some early chances, though, in the first three innings. Joey Votto doubled with one out in the first, but Yasiel Puig lined into a double play.
Eugenio Suarez doubled to lead the second, then the next three made outs, including strikeouts by Matt Kemp and Tucker Barnhart.
Jesse Winker, playing center field for the first time as the Reds continue to play without a legitimate center field, was hit by a pitch with two outs in the third but Votto flied to left.
Suarez drew a one-out walk in the fourth and stayed anchored at first. In total, the Reds stranded only three but were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position. And the last 13 batters made outs.
There were some underlying issues in this one, issues that show lack of focus.
After one strikeout by the Pirates, catcher Tucker Barnhart started for the dugout. But it was only the second out. On one at bat, Eugenio Suarez started toward first base, believing he had a walk, but it was only ball three.
And the worst surfaced in the fifth when Jose Iglesias singled with one out. With Sonny Gray trying to bunt, Iglesias got trapped off first base and was caught in a rundown.
That was the last baserunner the Reds had on this frigid night in PNC Park.
On Saturday, the Reds try to avoid an embarrassing club record. The record for getting shut out is four straight games, set in 1908 and 1931.