LOS ANGELES – David Bell thought the way Tyler Mahle pitched in the first three innings Sunday was some of the best of his career.
Mahle was working ahead in counts with his offspeed pitches and generating strikeouts with his fastball. He was frustrating Los Angeles Dodgers hitters with his fastball and splitter.
Then the fourth inning arrived and nothing went right.
It was just another low point in a week full of low points. The Cincinnati Reds were routed, 9-1, in the series finale Sunday at Dodger Stadium and swept in the four-game series, extending their losing streak to six games. It was the first time the Dodgers swept the Reds over a four-game series since 1975.
Doc:Hunter Greene offers the Reds’ greatest hope for the future
Hunter Greene:A secret adjustment was key to success with his fastball
The Reds haven’t led once during their six-game losing streak, 54 consecutive innings they’ve been tied or trailed.
“It’s just that everything that could go wrong is going wrong,” Mahle said.
After an offseason where the Reds parted with several of their most popular players, and a 99-day lockout, it’s added up to a 2-8 record to begin the season, the worst record in the Majors. It’s the third time in the last five seasons (2018 and 2019) they’ve won only two of their first 10 games.
More:Cincinnati Reds, with worst record in MLB, blown out and swept by Los Angeles Dodgers
More:RedsXtra: The automated strike zone, tested in the minor leagues, still has some flaws
Mahle surrendered seven earned runs in 3 2/3 innings, matching a career-high. He allowed only one hit in his first time through the Dodgers lineup, totaling four strikeouts, but the fourth inning turned into a disaster.
“I don’t think it has to do with any of their players or anything,” Mahle said. “They do have a great lineup, obviously, but I didn’t feel that way, like, ‘oh man, they’ve got (Freddie) Freeman coming up next.’ I knew I just had to make a good pitch to get them out.”
The first five Dodgers hitters reached base in the fourth inning. Max Muncy roped a two-run double down the right-field line and Will Smith slapped an RBI double into left field.
This is a Dodgers lineup that has the luxury of batting 2019 National League MVP Cody Bellinger seventh in their lineup and Chris Taylor, who signed a four-year, $60 million contract last winter, eighth. Taylor continued the hit parade in the fourth inning with a two-run ground-ball double to center.
Freeman, who opened the fourth inning with a single, added a two-run single in his second at-bat of the inning. He broke into a smile once he reached first base as the Dodger Stadium crowd of 41,167 chanted his name.
“Against this lineup,” Bell said, “it’s a really fine line between pitching great and then allowing runs in a hurry.”
During the six-game losing streak, it was an awful week that started with team president Phil Castellini’s comments scoffing at fan criticism before the club’s home opener. Tommy Pham missed two games because of a collision in the outfield. Nick Senzel missed four games because of an illness. Jonathan India missed three games with a right hamstring injury and could be headed for the Injured List.
The Reds own the league’s lowest on-base percentage (.254) and the second-worst batting average (.180). They’ve averaged 2.5 runs during their losing streak, scoring just one run before the sixth inning in any of those six games.
“It’s been tough,” Bell said. “That’s kind of how it’s felt: just get down and we fight to get back in it but can’t get all the way back. We have faced really good pitching. Looking long-term, it’s like having these challenges early, playing against these good teams and facing the good pitching should help us. It’s just tough to go through while it’s happening.”
Dodgers lefty Andrew Heaney overpowered the Reds’ lineup, permitting one hit over six innings. Heaney struck out 11 batters, his highest total since striking out 14 on Aug. 20, 2019. Heaney had three starts with 10 strikeouts last season.
Injuries to several right-handed hitters – India, Senzel, Donovan Solano and Jose Barrero – meant the Reds had four lefties in their lineup. They stood no chance against Heaney’s slider, which drew a staggering 14 whiffs in the 22 swings the Reds offered at it.
“Maybe he’s not the guy that comes to mind when you think of their dominant starters – he’s really good – but he absolutely did pitch a great game,” Bell said.
Kyle Farmer laced a two-out double off Heaney in the third inning, which kept a no-hitter out of play, but the Reds will face two more left-handed starters during their upcoming three-game series in San Diego.