Bell: Late season surge leaves Reds optimistic for 2021


By MITCH STACY - AP Sports Writer



Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Luis Castillo, center left, is relieved by manager David Bell during the sixth inning against the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of a National League wild-card baseball series, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Luis Castillo, center left, is relieved by manager David Bell during the sixth inning against the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of a National League wild-card baseball series, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)


Cincinnati Reds' Eugenio Suarez reacts after striking out to end the sixth inning against the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of a National League wild-card baseball series, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)


Cincinnati Reds' Shogo Akiyama of Japan, heads to the dugout after grounding out during the eighth inning against the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of a National League wild-card baseball series, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)


The Cincinnati Reds spent big money last offseason to add some badly needed offensive pop to the lineup. It didn’t pay off quite as well as they hoped.

Behind solid pitching, the Reds slipped into the playoffs for the first time in seven years despite hitting a major league-worst .212 as a team. The offensive woes were front and center as they were shut out and swept in two games by the Atlanta Braves, wasting solid starts by their two best pitchers, Trevor Bauer and Luis Castillo.

The Reds were 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position in the two games and are left to cull the positives from an unsettling season shortened by the coronavirus pandemic and played in empty stadiums.

The positives: The Reds slammed 90 home runs in the 60 games, seventh best in the major leagues. Pitching was good all around as they went on a late-season run to finish 31-29 and get to the postseason for the first time in seven years. Bauer’s 1.73 ERA likely will be good enough for the NL Cy Young Award. Most of the key parts of the roster are signed for next year.

Manager David Bell said the 16-9 September is a sign of where the Reds are heading.

“We got on a pretty good roll,” Bell said. “We had everything working well together. It started about a month and a half into the season. Who knows what would have happened in a long season. Our team was playing with a tremendous amount of confidence.”

OFFENSIVE ADDITIONS

The Reds signed outfielders Nick Castellanos and Shogo Akiyama, and added second baseman Mike Moustakas hoping to boost the offense. Castellanos was second on the team in home runs with 14 but hit .225. Moustakas hit .230 with eight homers and 27 RBIs. Akiyama hit .245 with nine RBIs. Nobody in the lineup hit better than .255.

Thirty-six-year-old slugger Joey Votto had 11 homers and hit only .226, although he caught fire in September.

Votto said the season shouldn’t be considered a failure based on the two-game series loss to the Braves.

“If one ball falls or a broken bat or an odd play on their end or walk or an error, all of a sudden we’re talking about Game 3,” he said. “There’s just so few opportunities to show your true selves in a two-game series. It doesn’t tell you very much.”

THE REAL REDS

Judge the Reds more on their hot streak in September, catcher Tucker Barnhart said.

“I think the stretch of baseball that we played late in the regular season was very indicative of the team we are, both pitching and defense,” Barnhart said. “I believe we have a group that can win.”

Bauer — who shut out the Braves and allowed only two hits through 7 2/3 innings in the 1-0 loss Wednesday —- along with Castillo (4-6, 3.21 ERA) and Sonny Gray (5-3, 3.70) are expected to be the foundation of a solid pitching staff.

Bell said hitters likely will show better in a traditional 162-game season.

“Where we came up short was stringing together hits at times during the season,” he said. “You can look at the defensive positioning, you can look at hard hit balls that didn’t go for hits, but it’s something we’ve got to take a close look at.”

He added: “We absolutely believe in our guys.”

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Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Luis Castillo, center left, is relieved by manager David Bell during the sixth inning against the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of a National League wild-card baseball series, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2020/10/web1_125565978-23a30a269ae241eda9b8e2f091ab7779.jpgCincinnati Reds starting pitcher Luis Castillo, center left, is relieved by manager David Bell during the sixth inning against the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of a National League wild-card baseball series, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Cincinnati Reds’ Eugenio Suarez reacts after striking out to end the sixth inning against the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of a National League wild-card baseball series, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2020/10/web1_125565978-3ed6a5e50fd64f669e7703b5d016d0f9.jpgCincinnati Reds’ Eugenio Suarez reacts after striking out to end the sixth inning against the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of a National League wild-card baseball series, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Cincinnati Reds’ Shogo Akiyama of Japan, heads to the dugout after grounding out during the eighth inning against the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of a National League wild-card baseball series, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2020/10/web1_125565978-1b412ff155c94f3094f5eb2ac41a9607.jpgCincinnati Reds’ Shogo Akiyama of Japan, heads to the dugout after grounding out during the eighth inning against the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of a National League wild-card baseball series, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

By MITCH STACY

AP Sports Writer