CINCINNATI -- With an all-rookie rotation, and some pitchers with innings limits approaching, Reds manager Bryan Price has noted that the remaining innings this season will be accounted for somehow, some way. But that task has been getting harder lately, as a few of the starters are struggling to even get to the middle innings.
David Holmberg labored for five innings and allowed five earned runs in the Reds' 6-3 loss to the D-backs on Friday night. It was his second straight poor performance to follow a career-high 6 2/3 innings pitched in an Aug. 10 win over the Padres.
The rookies have a 4.88 combined ERA in 22 starts since veteran Mike Leake made his final outing before his trade to the Giants. Their ERA was ranked 22nd in the Major Leagues, entering Friday.
"It's pretty important. I would like to get deeper in games," said the 24-year-old Holmberg, who has a 6.57 ERA in five starts. "That's my game. I like to get guys out quick and go deep into games. I feel like, personally, I need to do a better job."
In August, Reds starters came into the game ranked 27th in the Majors in innings pitched. Meanwhile, their relievers entered tied for second in innings pitched. Despite that, the bullpen came in ranked second in ERA for the month. Sam LeCure and Jumbo Diaz did a nice job in following Holmberg with four innings of relief.
Holmberg isn't alone with recent struggles. After two initially solid starts, Keyvius Sampson (4.43 ERA) pitched 3 1/3 innings in his last start on Wednesday and five innings in the start before that. On Thursday, John Lamb had 97 pitches through five innings but had to return for the sixth because the bullpen was shorthanded. Lamb recorded one out before leaving with 112 pitches. The starter he replaced, Michael Lorenzen, was beat up in several starts before being sent back to Triple-A Louisville.
Even when there's been a stronger start this week, the Reds' bullpen was taxed. Raisel Iglesias pitched seven scoreless innings against Kansas City on Tuesday. Closer Aroldis Chapman blew the save and the relievers wound up working six innings before a 13-inning defeat.
Iglesias has four straight quality starts and a streak of 12 scoreless innings that lowered his ERA to 4.21 in 13 games. Saturday's starter, Anthony DeSclafani, is the most tenured of the group with 23 starts in 2015, and 14 quality outings. DeSclafani, 25, has a 3.78 ERA over 138 innings during his very solid season.
The rotation initially did a nice job holding its own following the trades of ace Leake and Johnny Cueto. Now it needs to return to finding an overall balance of going deeper into games.
"It's hard, particularly now, simply because we have a couple of [relievers] that are day-to-day with bouts of general soreness," Price said. "It makes it challenging. It's something every club goes through periodically. We're just trying to get caught up. With the schedule, the [makeup] game against Detroit on Monday, and not having that off day to recover, a really good start -- a couple of lengthy starts -- would go a long way in giving us a chance to get our bullpen back together and rested."