CINCINNATI -- No one knows if there will be a big trade this week or not, but this much is clear: If there is not real improvement soon, with or without a deal, the Reds could quickly go from treading water all season to sinking like a stone.
The Reds looked flat again during an 8-2 loss to the Mets on Wednesday as Mike Pelfrey cruised to his second complete game of 2011. Pelfrey came into the night with a 5-9 record and 4.73 ERA but was given little resistance.
"Not a whole bunch to say. They beat us up pretty good," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of the Mets, who have taken the first three games of this four-game set after the Reds took two of three in a revitalizing series against the Braves.
The Reds did not get on the scoreboard until the fourth inning, when Joey Votto drove a 2-1 pitch the opposite way and over the left-field wall for a one-out solo homer. It was Votto's 15th homer and second in two games since he was given a rest from the lineup on Monday.
A second Cincinnati run crossed in the seventh, when Jay Bruce hit a triple to the right-field corner and scored on a Chris Heisey sacrifice fly.
"Luckily tonight, they hit some balls right at guys and guys played great defense, and it worked out," said Pelfrey, who gave up seven hits, no walks and struck out three.
In five of their seven losses since the All-Star break, the Reds were held to two runs or fewer. The club that was first in runs scored before the break entered the night 11th in that category for the second half.
The loss has put the 50-54, fourth-place Reds at a season-high four games under .500 and 5 1/2 games out of first place in the National League Central, also a season high.
"I don't know if it becomes more urgent because you can't win two games in one day," Reds starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo said. "All you can do is play each one out. You're not capable of doing more than you can. You go out there, prepare and play the game hard. ... I don't know if it's urgent or any kind of panicking. It definitely becomes hard to be optimistic about the thing as a whole."
The offense wasn't alone with its struggles. Arroyo went winless for the fifth straight start, and he's allowed at least four runs in each of his last six starts, including his previous victory on June 25 at Baltimore.
"Obviously the team hasn't had a long winning streak in such a long time," Arroyo said. "Yeah, it's totally frustrating -- not just for myself, but for the whole ballclub."
In this outing, Arroyo finished with five runs (four earned) and seven hits allowed over six innings with three walks and three strikeouts. Spotty defense on the heels of Tuesday's rare three-error night did not help.
As speedy Jose Reyes led off the game with a ground ball to third base, Miguel Cairo rushed a one-hop throw to first base. The ball went in and out of Votto's glove as Reyes reached with a single. After a David Wright two-out single, a passed ball by catcher Ryan Hanigan put two runners in scoring position. Angel Pagan's two-run double to right field made it a 2-0 game.
On first base in the fifth with one out, Reyes stole second base and went to third on Hanigan's throwing error into center field. After Willie Harris was walked by Arroyo, Daniel Murphy hit an RBI double to score Reyes. A Wright sacrifice fly scored Harris.
And in the sixth inning, Lucas Duda slugged a leadoff home run to right field that made it a 5-1 game. It was the 30th homer Arroyo allowed this season, eclipsing his 2010 total and putting him one shy of his career high.
Failing to keep the Mets within striking distance, reliever Jose Arredondo started the seventh by walking Harris before Murphy singled off of Votto's glove. On a 1-0 pitch over the plate, Wright crushed a three-run homer to center field.
It's been a season that slowed Arroyo at the start with mononucleosis and a sore back in May, but the bottom line is he is 7-9 with 5.58 ERA this year.
Baker did not rule out that health issues could be playing a part in Arroyo's lackluster year.
"We have to discuss it and find out if indeed there is something wrong," Baker said. "We don't know at this point. Everybody is a little banged up. It just depends how banged up somebody is. Hopefully we'll get a truthful answer from Bronson."
Arroyo claimed that his health was currently fine.
"I felt pretty good. I'm just not getting it done," he said. "I feel better now than I did two months ago. Pitching performances -- not to say I've been throwing the ball well -- you win a ballgame 5-4 and it looks OK. You lose the ballgame 5-0 and it looks terrible. The mediocre outings look even worse, especially tonight."