CINCINNATI -- Zero and six.
Say it aloud. Scribble it on a piece of paper. Shout it into the void. Stare at the record and ponder the implausibility.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have played the Cincinnati Reds, a last-place team in the midst of an organizational rebuild, six times in the 2018 season. The Dodgers have won precisely zero of those games, the latest a 3-1 defeat in front of more empty seats than fans at Great American Ball Park.
If the Dodgers do not participate in the playoffs this October, there are plenty of statistics to ponder: The blown saves in April, the earned-run average of the bullpen in August, the season-long stumbles in high-leverage situations, the various slumps plaguing their lineup. Or they can just look at this: an 0-6 record against a tanking team, one with marginal talent on its roster and even less to play for.
"I don't have an answer for the Reds," manager Dave Roberts said. "Obviously, we as a team don't. These are important games, as we all understand, and our guys understand that. Unfortunately we can't find a way to get a win here."
On Tuesday, the Dodgers fell under the spell of Reds right-handed pitcher Luis Castillo and committed their usual sins against the concept of hitting. The sole source of offense was a solo home run from Joc Pederson in the sixth. Castillo struck out nine while overwhelming the Dodgers with a combination of his mid-90s fastball and diving changeup.
In a vacuum, the Dodgers could give credit to Castillo, a 25-year-old with an elevated ceiling. Yet these games do not exist in a vacuum. The context made the defeat more devastating. The Dodgers have wiped away the progress they made over the weekend in Colorado, just as they followed a jubilant series victory over Arizona with a desultory series loss to the New York Mets last week.
"I wish we had a theory, so we could play better against these teams," Cody Bellinger said. He added, "It's obviously frustrating. No discredit to the Reds -- their lineup is good. And they've been pitching well. But at the end of the day, we're the better team, obviously."
That was not apparent Monday or Tuesday. The particulars with the offense were the usual. The hitters struck out too often and went hitless with runners in scoring position. It left Roberts shaking his head afterward, searching for an explanation. His team was not overconfident, Roberts insisted, but overzealous.