Reds need Lamb, young arms to learn from mistakes

Left-hander allows eight runs over 4 1/3 innings in loss to Nats

Reds need Lamb, young arms to learn from mistakes

WASHINGTON -- Much of the Reds' current rebuilding program hinges on developing young starting pitchers. But with young pitchers sometimes comes mistakes. The only thing that's predictable is their unpredictability and subsequent struggles.

In a 12-1 loss to the Nationals on Sunday, Reds starter John Lamb was reasonably in control, then lost his command and couldn't get it back. Lamb opened the fourth inning with three straight walks to load the bases. That was followed by Danny Espinosa's grand slam that put his team down, 5-0.

"I wish I knew," Lamb replied when asked what happened. "I don't go out there intending to walk three guys back-to-back-to-back to start off an inning, let alone any time in a game. And it bit me. It bit us. It's disappointing."

Because his bullpen was gassed and knowing three games vs. the Cubs at Wrigley Field followed, Reds manager Bryan Price stuck with Lamb another inning. In the fifth, Bryce Harper opened with a homer before two runs and another three hits followed.

What can Lamb take from that outing?

"You've got to come back. The next inning he gave up four hits and got knocked out of the game," Price said. "What you learn from it is that can't happen. You can have as disastrous of an inning as you can possibly have, you have to find a way to get back on top of your game and stay out there."

Lamb finished with a career high eight earned runs over 4 1/3 innings while allowing eight hits and four walks with five strikeouts and three homers. After 12 starts, he is 1-5 with a 5.43 ERA. He did have a 3.09 ERA over his previous six starts.

Cincinnati has not had back-to-back wins since June 13-14 and has four wins over its last 18 games. There have been nine games in that stretch where the team has allowed seven or more runs.

Without a veteran stopper that eats innings, the pressure is on the young pitchers to get it done while learning on the job.

"We have three pitching coaches here, basically, with a history of about 90 years of coaching experience," Price said referring to himself, pitching coach Mark Riggins and bullpen coach Mack Jenkins. "The part we're coming to terms with in large part, we're preaching a lot of the same stuff you preach to young pitchers in the early stages of player development. And that's command your fastball, be able to throw a changeup for a strike and be able to develop one breaking ball.

"I hate to try and simplify it at this level, but we're really trying to do that because we're extremely scattered in the zone. We've been a high-walk pitching staff and egregious mistakes up in the zone are pitches lifted for home runs and extra-base hits. It's a tough combination."

Reds pitchers lead the Majors with 144 home runs allowed, well ahead of the Twins, who are second with 115. The staff's 364 walks are 58 more than the second-most total owned by the Padres.

"We're certainly going through some struggles that are allowing us to take something out of it," Lamb said. "For me, it's emphasizing today throwing strikes and not giving away free passes."

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.