The Cincinnati Reds have led the National League’s Western Division since the beginning of the campaign, but a current nine-game losing streak has the Reds’ division dreams in jeopardy. The Western race tightened during the summer as the Dodgers, Giants, and Braves have climbed the standings. An embarrassing double-header loss to expansion Montreal dropped the Reds from first place last Tuesday. After a 6-4 loss to Pittsburgh at Crosley Field, the Reds are now six games off the pace, and a mere half game from falling into fifth place. The Pirates jumped on starter Gerry Arrigo for four quick runs in the first, and a sense of dread entered Crosley Field before the last notes of the National Anthem exited the stadium.
Pressure is growing upon Manager Dave Bristol who has guided the Reds since 1966. The Reds offense, labeled “the Big Red Machine” by local media, led all of baseball and propelled Cincinnati to the top. However, after the All Star Break, the offense has tapered off. The club is batting .194 in the last two weeks. Lee May (.181 in last 3 weeks) and Johnny Bench (.192 in last 3 weeks) are struggling through a slumps. The offense protected the pitching staff which was perceived as the club’s weakness. In April, the pitching staff posted a 2.94 ERA for the month, but the staff could not maintain that pace. The staff has posted a dismal 5.01 ERA in the last two weeks. A healthy Gary Nolan could revive the staff, but no starter has been able to step in beyond Jim Merritt (11-9, 3.51) and Jim Maloney (7-9, 3.37). In the bull pen, Bristol has gone to Wayne Granger (3-2, 2.62) nearly every game. Granger has appeared in 54 games and teammate Clay Carroll 51. Division play will resume in September so there is time for Bristol to get this team out of the pits and back into the race.