CINCINNATI — Five hits.
Never miss a local story.
In many ways, it's a wonder the Cincinnati Reds are where they are, above .500 at 33-32, still in the thick of the National League Central race, a young team finally headed in the right direction.
In the hands of owner Bob Castellini and General Manager Walt Jocketty, the Reds are a franchise finally showing some consistent purpose.
But it's a wonder that these 2009 Reds are where these 2009 Reds happen to be considering one simple truth: They just can't hit.
Thursday's 7-0 loss to visiting Atlanta was another adventure in offensive anemia.
The Braves tossed struggling hurler Tommy Hanson out on the hill for just his third major-league start. Last time out, Hanson gave up nine hits in 52⁄3 innings at Baltimore. He entered Thursday with a 6.17 ERA.
With the Reds at the plate, however, Tommy Hanson looked like Tommy Glavine.
Brandon Phillips singled in the third inning. Adam Rosales singled in the fifth. Jerry Hairston singled in the sixth. Chris Dickerson stroked a single in the seventh. Ryan Hanigan singled in the eighth. That's it.
"The one time we got the bases loaded," lamented Manager Dusty Baker of a second-inning when a walk, a walk and a hit batter filled the sacks, "we didn't have the right people at the plate."
Matt Maloney and Willy Taveras both fanned. By the final out, the Reds had scored two-or-fewer runs for the 19th time in 65 games.
Meanwhile, the Braves' Nate McLouth touched up Cincinnati's rookie pitcher Matt Maloney for a two-run homer and a two-run single. Matt Diaz added a solo homer and the Braves salvaged the final game of the three-game series.
That's the thing, thanks to a first-rate pitching staff, the Reds, as Baker made a point of saying afterward, are "still managing to win games."
But you wonder how many more games they could have won, or how much longer they will remain afloat, with an offense whose batting average (.243) is ranked 15th out of 16 National League teams, ahead of only San Diego.
Jay Bruce is hitting .214. Alex Gonzalez is hitting .216. Adam Rosales is hitting .217. Willy Taveras is hitting .219. In his last 23 games, Taveras is 8-for-94, for a meager .085. And he's the leadoff hitter. Or non-hitter.
Many Reds' backers are clamoring for Chris Dickerson to replace Taveras in the order. Dickerson's average? It's .246.
"I've never seen guys hit this much with so little results," said Baker, pointing out that the club is always taking extra batting practice, cage practice, etc. "Maybe we're hitting too much."
"Honestly," answered second baseman Brandon Phillips, "we're just hitting the ball right at people."
Joey Votto was the one Red who hit the ball away from people. The Reds' first baseman was batting a sparkling .357 when he was placed on the disabled list with stress-related issues on May 30. In Votto's absence, the Reds have scored 35 runs in their last 13 games. They are 5-8 in those 13.
The good news is Votto started a rehab assignment in Sarasota on Thursday night. The bad news is Baker said he doesn't expect to see his first baseman back in a Reds' uniform until the team returns from the next road trip. That would be June 30.
"I don't think I can shake up (the lineup) any more than I've shaken it up," Baker said. "How many different lineups have I had? Forty? That's 40 different lineups in 65 games. I don't know what else I can do."
He does know one thing.
"When you're not hitting," said the manager, "it makes life unpleasant."