Reds' offensive drought vexing, but not alarming

Reds' offensive drought vexing, but not alarming

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates did all they could in the ninth inning to spoil their series win and let the Reds back in the game. There was a walk, a balk, an error and that old crowd-pleaser, "defensive indifference." But all the Reds could manage was a run while leaving the bases loaded in a 3-1 loss Sunday at PNC Park.

The error, a flare off the bat of pinch-hitter Zack Cozart that glanced off second baseman Max Moroff's glove, came with two outs and permitted the Reds to avoid a second consecutive shutout, the fourth in their last eight games.

"They pitched well against us," Reds manager Bryan Price said, referring not just to the two losses in the current series but a pair in Cincinnati last week in which the Reds scored two total runs.

Sunday, Pirates right-hander Trevor Williams pitched seven shutout innings, scattering eight hits. Cincinnati left 10 runners on base and failed to benefit from the leadoff hitter reaching base in six of the innings.

"Williams pitched a really nice ballgame," Price said. "He had a few runners on he had to deal with, they got a couple of double-play balls. We just weren't able to come up with the big hit today."

The Reds have been productive this season beyond their star, Joey Votto. Five players have at least 23 home runs. The club ranks sixth in the National League in runs, fifth in total bases, fourth in homers and, led by Pirates-nemesis Billy Hamilton, first in steals.

"I think when we're good we're pretty good through the lineup, and right now there's pockets in the lineup where guys are scuffling with the bat a little bit," Price said. "But, in general, from top to bottom it's a really solid lineup.

"I don't have any concerns about our club offensively. You hate to waste good pitching, especially with these young kids. It would be nice to provide them some victories, and the team with some victories, but it's not really an area of concern."

On the positive side of losing two of three to the Pirates were those young pitchers. Currently four rookies are in the rotation, three on display during the series. All flashed talent and promise -- Luis Castillo in Friday's win, Tyler Mahle on Saturday and big right-hander Sal Romano in Sunday's game.

Romano makes a barehanded snag

Coming off three solid starts, Romano pitched well despite an ineffective curve ball, leaving in the sixth with the Pirates ahead, 2-0, two outs and the bases loaded. Kevin Shackelford came in to fan Jordy Mercer for the final out of the frame.

"I feel pretty confident," Romano said. "I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but it's all about experience, experience, experience."

"I thought today it might have been [Romano's] best stuff," Price said. "I thought it was his best velocity. Really good fastball command. Didn't have a lot of places to go without that breaking ball. But I'm very pleased with his growth, from an execution standpoint, maturity, mound presence. Much, much better."

Bob Cohn is a contributor to MLB.com based in Pittsburgh. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.