PITTSBURGH — Against Pirates starter Bryse Wilson on Wednesday at PNC Park, the Reds collected only three hits through eight innings. It was another sign of a struggling offense being outmaneuvered.
But those three hits provided a reassuring sign for a hitter who has gone through the valleys more than any other regular in the Reds’ lineup this season and is trying to bat his way out to finish the season strong.
Jose Barrero went 3-for-4 in the Reds’ 4-3 loss in 10 innings, one day after he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. But even that toilsome showing in the box score gave manager David Bell some glimpses of things going right for the 24-year-old shortstop.
On Tuesday, Barrero took two at-bats to two-ball counts and two others to three-ball counts. His final at-bat was the latter, as he squared off against Pirates All-Star closer David Bednar, fouling pitch after pitch in an 11-pitch duel that ended with the third strikeout.
“The fact that he struck out that at-bat was less of a concern,” Bell said. “… His timing was right. He was in a position to really battle. Sometimes, as bad as you want to battle, you aren’t able to do it, your mechanics aren’t allowing you to do it.
“Last night, he finally got to a point where it was actually a fun at-bat for him, I think. It was a tough at-bat, a battle, but I think it was good to see him compete like that.”
Barrero’s timing was nearly perfect in the series finale. He routinely struck the ball well, producing three hard-hit balls (95+ mph per Statcast), the first of which snapped an 0-for-15 stretch with 10 strikeouts with a double to the left-field corner.
In his next at-bat, Barrero grounded a single at 105.9 mph past the range of 6-foot-7 shortstop Oneil Cruz and into left field. It was the Reds’ second-hardest hit of the game, struck by a player who is in the bottom half of the league in max exit velocity.
Instead of popping baseballs out of play like he did Tuesday, Barrero flared his third hit into shallow right field, and the contact rewarded him with a single plus second base on a fielding error. Unfortunately, the only ball he did not strike for a hit came in the ninth, when he lined a ball to the left-center-field gap, but not deep enough to elude Pirates left fielder Jack Suwinski.
Had it found a hole, the Reds would have been in a position to avoid a second consecutive sweep by the Pirates. Still, for a coaching staff waiting to see its work with Barrero pay off, Wednesday was a huge step.
“He’s continuing to work, so having four solid at-bats like that, I think, was very encouraging for Jose,” Bell said. “[He’s] just got to keep going.”
Barrero’s struggles have mirrored the Reds’ struggles over the past month. The club has averaged 3.3 runs per game in 27 contests this month and has scored three or fewer runs in each of its past seven games while going 1-6. Cincinnati is the only team in MLB to hit below .200 with runners in scoring position this month, with a .186 average in such situations.
“It’s hard right now, scoring runs and hitting with guys in scoring position right now, but hitting goes back and forth,” said Kyle Farmer, who hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning. “You’ve got to ride the wave.”
Now, Barrero will try to ride a wave of offense in his own right. To say that he has been going through it this season would be an understatement. In 154 plate appearances entering Wednesday, Barrero posted a .149 average with a .385 OPS. Among batters with at least 150 plate appearances this season, his .385 OPS is the worst in baseball by more than 50 points from the next entry (the A's Cristian Pache, .436).
Barrero has been given days off over the past few weeks to work on his swing. The Reds look forward to seeing how he grows from the challenge, hoping to see more signs on the path of Wednesday’s breakthrough.
“It’s kind of the best part of baseball,” Bell said. “… It’s the delay of it. You put in the work, and it doesn’t always happen, but sometimes it happens right down the road. That’s a real test.
“You’ve got to keep putting in the work, even though you’re not seeing the results immediately. But it’s going to happen.”
Jose Barrero career-high 3 hits in loss to Pirates – MLB.com