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Reds' offense struggles during rocky start

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Reds' season has started a lot like the last one ended, with a lot of losses set up by a lot runners stranded on base.

All they can do is ride it out.

Cincinnati has lost all of its three series to open the season, with its lack of clutch hitting the main culprit. The Reds (3-6) have stranded 71 runners in their nine games and are batting only .214 with runners in scoring position. With runners on scoring position and two outs, it's .129.

And it's the main reason they're taking up the rear in the NL Central.

"Who would have said that?" pitcher Homer Bailey said. "I don't think anybody in here would have expected that or could have even conceived it in their mind. We just need to be better."

It's reminiscent of the last week of the 2013 season, when Cincinnati couldn't hit and couldn't win. The Reds lost their last six games, including the wild-card playoff in Pittsburgh. They failed to score more than three runs in any of those games during the slide, which cost manager Dusty Baker his job.

They're at it again under Bryan Price, who was promoted from pitching coach. The Reds have scored 27 runs, the third-fewest in the National League. Their .234 team batting average ranks 11th in the league.

"We're running our guys out there," Price said. "The core guys, these are the guys that when the season is over, they're going to have their numbers."

For now, they're trying to get healthy and get it together.

The Reds opened the season with eight players on the disabled list, the most in the majors. Catcher Devin Mesoraco was the only missing regular, and Brayan Pena has done well as his fill-in, batting .353. But leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton is batting .192, Joey Votto .250 with only one RBI, Jay Bruce .188 with a team-high eight RBIs, Zack Cozart .038.

While the everyday lineup has been spared, the injuries have been felt deeply in a bullpen which has been missing closer Aroldis Chapman, alternate closer Jonathan Broxton and left-handed setup man Sean Marshall. Broxton returned this week.

The fill-in relievers have struggled. Cincinnati's starting rotation ranks third in the NL with a 3.05 ERA, the bullpen only 11th at 5.14.

While they get healthy, the Reds have lost a lot of opportunities. Six of their first nine games have been against the St. Louis Cardinals, the defending NL champions. They hoped to make some inroads, but dropped four of the six.

"Well, 2-4 doesn't sound that great to me, to be honest with you," Price said. "Even with our disabled list as it is, I don't think anyone here has felt like we're a lesser team going into this series. Other people would argue that it's the defending National League champions and we have some injuries.

"I'd have hoped certainly to do better than we have in these first six games. It's not a great feeling of relief or that there was any success."

The combination of struggling lineup and creaky bullpen has led to a lot of close losses. The Reds are 2-3 in one-run decisions, 0-2 in two-run decisions. Last year, Cincinnati was 27-22 in one-run games.

There's a recent precedent that provides hope.

The Reds also started the 2012 season with a 3-6 mark. They went on to lose eight of their first 12 games with an offense that could barely score. Cincinnati was held to two runs or less in seven of its first 12 games.

The Reds broke out and went on to win 97 games. They lost a five-game series to eventual World Series champion San Francisco in the opening round of the playoffs.

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AP Sports Writer R.B. Fallstrom in St. Louis contributed to this report.

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