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Price remains optimistic

One thing about Reds manager Bryan Price is he doesn’t brood for days and weeks during the rough stretches. Nor does Price get too up when things are going well. While he certainly can show his displeasure after a loss, he doesn’t carry it to the next day or next series.

Therefore coming on the heels of a winless six-game road trip, Price was in a pretty positive mood on Friday. He was asked by one reporter if he had to do anything to keep the spirits of the players up to keep the season from getting away from them.

“Other than the early part of the year, I haven’t had to do anything at all. I don’t make a lot of trips through the clubhouse to pick up the spirits of the guys,” Price replied. “You have to realize that what’s happening isn’t uncommon. It’s standard practice in a Major League Baseball season that you have periods where you play very, very well and other periods where you tread water like we did the first couple of months. And then there are periods where you struggle to win games on a regular basis. The last six have been a real struggle for us.

“[But] it’s a stretch in the season. We’re going to get back. We’re going to have other stretches where we play better than we have here. What we need is to play well enough to get ourselves to the top of the division and into the playoffs and hopefully be one of the hotter teams going into the playoffs so we can do more than we’ve done in the past few opportunities.”

*In other news, SS Zack Cozart (bruised right fingers) is back in the lineup after missing Wednesday. Cozart was hit by a pitch while bunting Tuesday night. He showed he could hit or throw without issue. Price said Cozart could have probably played on Wednesday but it made more sense to give his swollen fingers two days of rest to be right.

Game 102: Nationals at Reds

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Game 101: Reds at Brewers

Hamilton 8
Frazier 5
Pena 3
Ludwick 7
Bruce 9
Mesoraco 2
Schumaker 4
Santiago 6
Leake 1

Season-high losing streak

All the details of how the Reds lost a crusher of a game to the Brewers by a 4-3 score will be on Reds.com/MLB.com. It means Cincinnati now has a season-high five-game losing streak and are 4 1/2 games out of first place.

Appearing to be seething, Reds manager Bryan Price summed it all up here.

“They don’t need a lecture from me about me being disappointed. We’re all disappointed,” Price said. “Nobody likes it. If you’ve watched our team in these five games, you’ve seen guys busting their tails down the line, putting in the work in pre-game and being invested in what we do to prepare. We just haven’t executed. We haven’t swung the bats well. We haven’t gotten the quality starts. In my opinion, quality starts aren’t six innings. Quality starts are seven innings and on. That’s how I see it. We haven’t played particularly good defense. We’ve missed some signs. We just haven’t played terribly well. We have to play a lot better than we have. We’re head-to-head with a team that’s ahead us. We’ve played hard. We just haven’t won.”

Mesoraco sits for Bailey’s start

Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco is not in Tuesday’s lineup, but is not injured. Manager Bryan Price decided he wanted to have Brayan Pena catch for Homer Bailey and perhaps rekindle some of the synergy the two had in a previous pairing.

“We need a really good start,” Price said. “Homer threw really well in San Francisco against the Giants when he threw to Pena. Over the course of their careers together, Homer will throw a lot to Devin. Devin has scuffled a little bit at the plate. I think a day off isn’t the worst thing and putting those two together is good as well.”

When Pena caught Bailey on June 29, the Reds got a three-hit shutout. Bailey took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Mesoraco is 1-for-11 since the All-Star break.

The Reds are of course trying to avoid a season-high five-game losing streak.

Game 100: Reds at Brewers

Hamilton 8
Schumaker 4
Frazier 3
Bruce 9
Ludwick 7
Pena 2
Cozart 6
Santiago 5
Bailey 1

*Roster move: RHP Logan Ondrusek to DL with strained right shoulder (retroactive to 7/13). RHP Curtis Partch recalled from Triple-A Louisville.

A break for Bruce

As you saw in the earlier lineup posting, Reds right fielder Jay Bruce is not in the lineup Monday vs. the Brewers. Bruce is hitless in his last 15 at-bats and was 0-for-11 with five strikeouts during the three-game series vs. the Yankees.

Donald Lutz started at first base while Skip Schumaker took right field and Ramon Santiago played second base.

Manager Bryan Price said Bruce was simply getting a day off.

“I think he had a tough series there in New York,” Price said. “I just think it’s a good opportunity to get Lutzy in there and to utilize our bench a little bit – which is tougher. We’ve got some young, inexperienced guys on our bench. We’re in contention but they have to be able to contribute as well. I think just the way things line up, Jay will be in there the next two games for sure and obviously, going back home. He’s our right fielder. He’s going to play almost every day. Today is one of those days he’s not.”

Can the Reds make a deal?

I suppose it’s pretty easy for folks to get pessimistic when their favorite club is swept in three games, a lackluster .500 Yankees team no less, coming out of the All-Star break. The Reds looked pretty poor in just about every facet of the game in New York.

Six runs with four solo homers, 31 strike outs to four walks, some sub-par defense and zero quality starts certainly isn’t going to get it done for the Reds.

Yet, they are still very much in the NL Central race – even from fourth place. They entered Monday only 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Brewers and Cardinals. With 64 games to go, that’s not really an intimidating distance.

It may seem like eons ago but Cincinnati cut a seven-game deficit to 1 1/2 games in just over a week. I know in the current era of Twitter/social media, the sky sure looks like it’s perpetually falling. I’ve seen the season declared over by followers and in the comments, it seems, numerous times.

Is it over? Nope. Of course not. Does that mean the Reds should stand pat and change nothing as July 31 approaches?

Nope. Of course not.

This is a team in need of some veteran reinforcement, namely a bat. No longer can it afford to let offense dry up in patches for extended periods like it has this season. The starting pitching has prevented long losing streaks but as the season gets later and arms are less fresh, that will be harder to do — even for a Reds rotation that’s one of the NL’s best.

The Reds know they will be challenged as a small market club to keep the window of contending open as long as possible. Short of moving Robert Stephenson, Michael Lorenzen and Jesse Winker, all of whom should be untouchable, it’s time to explore trades that provide both short and long-term solutions.

Ben Zobrist would be a nice addition but the Rays are surging and aren’t out of contention yet. While Tampa Bay remains six games out for the AL Wild Card, there are still 17 teams that are within three games of a playoff spot around the league. 17. That makes deal making harder than ever, but as July 31 gets closer, teams will be making moves. The Reds don’t have a big track record of making Deadline deals (Scott Rolen in 2009 and Jonathan Broxton in 2012) but this should be the year that bucks their trend.

The Reds can also help themselves from within. They’ve often said they go as Billy Hamilton goes. Hamilton was 1-for-12 in New York. Jay Bruce was 0-for-11 as his funk returned. If those guys can turn it around here in Milwaukee and the Reds can win a series, things likely won’t seem so pessimistic.

Game 99: Reds at Brewers

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Lots of quotes

One thing I like about my job is you never know what’s going to happen when you get to work. Crazy plays — both good and bad — can happen and some are crazier than others. How the Reds wound up on the losing end of a 3-2 walk-off defeat to the Yankees certainly qualified.

Read all about how a Brian McCann pop up behind first base ended up going for the game-ending RBI single on MLB.com/Reds.com. All the quotes are there from Bryan Price, Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier.

Here are some extra quotes from both clubhouse:

“We just have to play better. That’s the bottom line. We have to forget about these losses, get it going and play better. There is no other way to think about or figure it out. We have to be better than we have been.” — Bruce

“Any way to lose is tough. You don’t want to be the goat but sometimes it happens. We got into a situation. You’ve got to make the play.” — Frazier

“I think he can be a little more pitch efficient. Sometimes when you have a little bit more room in the zone, you’re obviously are going to be in better counts and have quicker outs. [But] you still have to manage a game with a tighter strike zone. He can live in the strike zone. He’s not a guy that needs an expanded plate or a generous strike zone.” — Price on Cueto, who had 112 pitches over five innings.

“It’s not everyday you see someone throw 102. You just try to put a good at bat together, hopefully put something hard into play and fortunately I fouled some pitches to get a pitch I could hit.” Yankees CF Jacoby Ellsbury, who went 4-for-4. His single off Aroldis Chapman in the ninth set up the winning run.

“I was surprised because it was up and in. It was a bad pitch for me. It would have been ball four but I don’t know how he hit it. I think he just guessed and he’s obviously a good hitter but he guessed on that pitch because that was up and in he just caught barrel and hit it over wall.” — Yankees reliever Dellin Betances on giving up the game-tying homer to Frazier in the eighth inning.

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