"It's challenging, and it's challenging for the guys in the bullpen," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "It's a challenge to get on a roll, that's it. Sometimes we've got to stretch our leads, sometimes we have to be able to stretch a lead, too. This doesn't fall solely on the bullpen. Certainly I think they're capable of pitching a lot better, collectively as a group than we have to this point.
"In the same respect, we've had a rather lengthy run with a few blips on the radar where we've been between zero and three runs a game."
The Reds' bullpen owns a 6.52 ERA this season, which is the highest in the Major Leagues by over a run.
After the stretch of games with runs allowed began April 11, Reds relievers have given up at least five runs in a game four times. The club removed J.J. Hoover as closer on April 20 and has not been able to consistently define roles in any of the middle through late innings since.
In 2004, the Indians bullpen gave up a run in 30 straight games in which they appeared but Cleveland's relievers did not appear in all of those games consecutively, as one complete game was thrown by a starter.
Cotham walked his second batter in the eighth, Hunter Pence, which proved pivotal in the loss. He was close to escaping a jam when Brandon Belt was nailed for the second out trying for second base on a single to left field. Following an intentional walk to Brandon Crawford that put runners on first and third base, Kelby Tomlinson bounced a slow roller to shortstop. Ivan De Jesus Jr. had no time to make a throw as Pence scored. Gregor Blanco followed with an RBI single to right field that made it a two-run game.
"The thing is, you're not throwing three fastballs down the middle to Hunter Pence," Price said. "You have to pitch to him; he's a dangerous hitter, he's a good player. In any situation, almost any situation, you're going to attack and try to get hitters out by throwing strikes and getting ahead. So in games like this, close, low-scoring games, there's so many different things that have to go right to win it."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.